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Back-to-school checklist: Pens, books… vaccines?

Summer vacation is nearly over, which for many parents means it’s time to draw up back-to-school checklists and ensure their children have everything needed to return to classes. Most lists will feature the usual items; stationery, a new backpack, books, uniform; but there is one more important addition that should not be overlooked ahead of the school year: vaccinations… 

A recent survey conducted by Research America and the American Society of Microbiology found seven out of ten people believe it is “very important” for parents to get their children vaccinated. Vaccinations help protect children, families, and communities against an array of dangerous diseases, and many are compulsory for schoolchildren unless they have a valid medical exemption or religious objection. If you are unsure about which vaccines your youngsters need ahead of the coming school year, we’ve put together a guide to help keep your children healthy. 

Which vaccines do schoolchildren need?

In 2014, the All states, including the District of Columbia require children to receive vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, and rubella. With the exceptions of Montana and Pennsylvania, all states also require schoolchildren receive a mumps vaccine, such as Proquad. 

Before entering kindergarten, children are also required to receive vaccinations against hepatitis B, apart from those living in Alabama, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In some states, kids heading to school for the first time will also need to get shots for Hib, flu, PCV, and hepatitis A. 

When do kids need their shots and boosters? 

The age at which children need shots and boosters depends on which vaccine they are receiving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a number of resources for parents, including a recommended vaccination schedule for infants and a vaccination guide for teens to preteens. 

Flu vaccinations are now recommended for everyone over six months of age, but the CDC also recommends preteens get the meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and infections of the bloodstream, the HPV vaccine, and a Tdap booster shot to maintain their protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. 

What if I miss a vaccination or booster? 

Don’t worry, if your child misses a vaccination or booster, or has not previously been vaccinated, your child’s pediatrician can help you catch up with immunization. The CDC has even created a catch-up immunization schedule for children between four months and 18 years of age. 

“If parents who have previously not vaccinated their children decide they want to get the vaccines and get their children caught up, it can be done, and it can be done in one visit,” said Stephen Russell, MD, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine. 

“Many parents don’t know that, the sooner a child is vaccinated, the more effective those vaccines will be. Pediatricians can quickly help families get back on the vaccine schedule in a safe and effective manner,” he added. 

Vaccinations can be arranged at a variety of places, including doctors’ offices, your local pharmacy, health centers and other local health departments. 

For more information on vaccines, speak to your pharmacist, pediatrician or family physician.