A Chandler health care clinic saw a big jump in patients at its immunization events this summer as parents scrambled to meet a new vaccine requirement before school started.
Sixth-graders who are at least 11 years old are required to have the TDaP (tetanus/diphtheria and pertussis) and meningococcal immunizations for the 2008-09 school year.
The requirement created a few busy afternoons at the Chandler CARE Center, formerly known as the San Marcos Resource Center. Free immunization clinics are held Thursday afternoons. Most times, the clinic sees about 50 people.
"Last week we had people waiting in the hot sun at 11:30 in the morning in order to be at the beginning of the line" for the 2 p.m. clinic, director Susan Horan said. One woman drove from Coolidge with her child. Only the first 100 are served during each clinic.
"She got No. 100," Horan said. Chandler Regional Medical Center was assisting at the clinics.
Chandler Unified School District started classes Monday, but it and other districts say parents have until the law takes effect Sept. 1 to comply with the requirement. In Chandler, parents can sign a release form for the school nurse to give the immunization, said district spokesman Terry Locke.
The Mesa Fire Department also hosts immunization events.
To meet the demand, the Maricopa County Department of Health Services will hold several clinics Saturday, free for children 18 and younger. Volunteer nurses and local fire department personnel will assist at the sites.
All school-required immunizations will be available, not just the latest requirements. Machrina Leach, a registered nurse with the county department, expects 300 to 500 children to be seen at each of the six locations, including two in the East Valley. Scottsdale Healthcare will host its own clinic Saturday as well.
"This is routinely a busy time of the season," Leach said. "We just always have a rush before school starts. Parents forget immunizations are going to be necessary ... It's just one of the last things on the list they do."
Parents were informed last spring about the requirement, with some notices going out as early as January, she said.
Arizona is the first state to require these immunizations. In the past, children have needed a booster for the tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations, but the newest shot - for pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough - is preferred, said Kathy Fredrickson, immunization office chief for the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"Pertussis is ... very critical and can be fatal for very young children. As an adolescent or adult, whooping cough is like a very bad cough that lasts for over two weeks," she said.
Immunization clinics run by Chandler Regional Medical Center have seen 854 children in the last two weeks alone, said Eileen Dohse, a registered nurse with the community outreach/vaccine program.
"More and more people have moved into the area. We are increasing by several thousand shots per year," Dohse said.
All schools are required to give an immunization update to the state department by Nov. 15, Fredrickson said.
"It's up to the schools to make sure that their students are inoculated. It can be a pandemic issue for them," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico.
More changes may be on the way next year.
A proposal on the Arizona Immunization Program Web site for the 2009-10 school year includes a hepatitis A vaccination for kindergarten and first-grade students as well as a second dose of the varicella vaccine for chickenpox.