School starting for another year is an exciting time. Buying school supplies, filling out forms and getting organized for another school year are all part of the process. You may also need to visit the pediatrician to find out if there are any back-to-school immunizations your child needs before the year begins.
Why do children need to get immunizations before starting school?
You might wonder why there might be a deadline on your child receiving certain vaccines by a specific date. This has to do with how the vaccines themselves work to protect your child from illness.
“Vaccines are a means to build up immunity to a particular disease before you come into contact with the bacteria or virus,” Megan Cranor, DO, a physician at Mercy Health – Lighthouse Way Family Medicine, shares. “Immunizations are an effective way to slow the spread of disease in the community with the goal of protecting those who are most vulnerable.”
However, student vaccine requirements are often state by state, so you may need to check with your state health department, local school district or individual school to find out what your child must have by the first day of school.
What vaccines should kids have before elementary school?
While some requirements for vaccines depend on your state, others are nationwide. No matter which state you live in, your child should have these vaccinations before starting school to avoid them contracting these preventable diseases:
- IPV vaccine: Four doses of this vaccine (starting at 2 months old) will guard the body from polio.
- DTaP vaccine: Five doses of this vaccine (starting at the age of 2 months) will protect your child from diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
- Varicella vaccine: Two doses of this vaccine (starting at around 12 to 15 months old) will protect them against chickenpox.
- MMR vaccine: Two doses of the MMR vaccine (starting at around 12 to 15 months old) will protect your child from measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
Depending on your state, your child may also be required to be vaccinated against other diseases like hepatitis A or B.
Anyone who is older than 6 months old should get the flu vaccine on a yearly basis. Be sure that everyone in your family has this vaccine ideally by the end of October. The flu can be especially dangerous for children who are younger than 5 years old.
What back-to-school immunizations should kids get before middle and high school?
Once your child is a teenager, they will need another round of vaccines. Below are a few that older children should have:
- DTaP vaccine: Another dose of this vaccine will help ensure lasting protection against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
- Hepatitis B vaccine: If your child didn’t receive this series of vaccines when they were younger, they should get it during adolescence.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: Your child should receive a dose of this vaccine to protect against this serious disease when they’re 11 or 12 years old. A second shot during their teen years can provide continued protection.
- HPV vaccine: This vaccine can protect your child from the numerous types of cancer-causing human papilloma viruses.
- Other “catch-up” vaccines: These vaccines are also available if your child didn’t get the varicella, MMR or polio vaccine when they were younger.
Is my child required to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
As of the summer of 2022, the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are available for adults and children ages 6 months and older. The dose and recommendations for future booster shots depends on the age of your child. Again, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician if you have any questions about your child and the COVID-19 vaccine as well as any of the other vaccines listed above.
Are these vaccines safe?
While it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to a vaccine, they are safe and effective. Vaccines are used to prevent easily transmitted diseases and avoid complications from these illnesses.
“Vaccines are evidence-based, and a lot of research has gone into them so that they are safe and effective,” Dr. Cranor adds. “The more people that can be vaccinated for these communicable diseases, the safer we all can be, the safer that our children can be, the safer that our immunocompromised family members can be.”
Vaccine requirements vary state by state, while your child’s school may require additional vaccinations and will ask you to provide immunization records to keep on file. Your pediatrician may also have suggestions based on your child’s individual needs.
With so many vaccines out there, it can be hard to keep track of which ones your child has already received. So, if at any time you need to check your child’s vaccine records, reach out to your pediatrician, their school or your state’s health department.
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