Each year, Lee County Health Department officials see the parking lot of the Immunizations Clinic of the Lee County Health Department lined up hundreds deep around the first day of school for required vaccinations.
"Every year families are up into the parking lot, with well over 100 children getting vaccines each day," said department spokesperson Diane Holm. "This can be the first day and sometimes the second or third day of school. We also see an influx the first day prior to the start of school."
The first day of school for Lee County Schools is Wednesday, Aug. 8, and it is coming fast, she said. Children needing required vaccinations quadruples this time of year.
Children who are not properly vaccinated are not allowed in Florida schools for the first time or back in school until their immunizations are up to date, officials remind residents.
To avoid the last-minute rush, free required vaccines are available now for children through 18 years of age at the Lee County Health Department, located at 3920 Michigan Ave., in Fort Myers.
Hours for the Immunizations Department are Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., and Friday, from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. No appointments are necessary, she said.
Another easy way to avoid the last-minute lines is to get vaccinations throughout the year, not during the last-minute rush.
"It's best to make vaccinating your children a priority during their birth month," said Kim White, immunizations manager, in a prepared statement. "Call your private provider today for an appointment or drop into the Health Department any weekday of the month."
There will also be two "tot shot clinics" available in North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres if you would rather to travel there instead of Fort Myers.
The "tot shots" spot will be held in North Fort Myers at the Lee County Health Department office located at 83 Pondella Road, in North Fort Myers, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 18. There's no cost; for children only.
If you live or work in Lehigh Aces, the Lehigh Clinic Lee County Health Department will provide children's vaccines from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 17. The address is 5624 8th St., W., Suite 106, Lehigh.
Adult shots are also available at the Health Department for a fee.
"At the local clinics, children have priority, and adults will be served as possible," Holm said.
Parents and guardians also need to be informed, Holm said.
"The CDC has changed the recommendations over the years as new science has indicated changes that are needed for the best protection," she said. "In some cases it is boosters, in some it is a full vaccine. They can talk to their regular pediatrician or can call nurses at the Health Department or go online to leechd.com."
You can also get information and vaccines from your pediatrician, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant.
"To protect your children from some ailments such as whooping cough, adults need to be vaccinated as adults even through they were vaccinated as children," she said. "Adults need a one-time dose of what is called Tdap followed by a DTp every 10 years after the Tdap."
Whether getting adult or child immunizations, clients need to bring all shot records when intending to get vaccinations.
She noted another new trend in vaccinations.
"What I think is fascinating about immunizations required is what we called herd vaccination levels," she said. "In order to protect every one from these diseases, such as whooping cough, herd vacciantion means a large percentage of the population must be vaccinated in order to protect the people who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons. For example, when it comes to whooping cough, 90 percent must have it; some herd vaccinations are as low as 75 percent."
The phone number for the Lee County Health Department is 332-9501.