What vaccines do your children need for school?
Back to school time is closer than your kids wish it were. In addition to buying school supplies, new clothes, and books, late summer is the time for a before school check-up so you can get health forms filled out and make sure your child has all the vaccines required by your state. Your pediatrician is the best resource for information on what specific vaccines are needed for your child based on:
- What state you live in
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s vaccination history
- Whether your child has any underlying health issues like asthma that could make him or her more vulnerable to certain vaccine preventable diseases like pneumonia, RSV, COVID-19, and chickenpox
Your child’s school nurse or healthcare provider may also be able to provide you with a list of vaccinations required to attend school.
Some vaccines are required by all states and the District of Columbia, including:
- DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis or whooping cough)
- Varicella (chickenpox); Some states accept proof of immunity for children who’ve had chickenpox. Proof of immunity is gotten through a blood test that checks for chickenpox antibodies.
- MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) is required by all states except Iowa, which only requires vaccination against measles and rubella (German measles).
What if my child is behind on vaccines?
Many children got behind on their vaccinations and preventive care during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others might be behind because they were facing other health issues that meant they had to delay vaccines due to a weakened immune system, for example children who were undergoing cancer treatment.
Call your pediatrician to find out the best approach to getting your child up to date on the vaccinations required for school.
Answers to common questions about childhood vaccines
Your pediatrician or family practitioner can answer your questions about vaccinating your children and about specific vaccines. We’ve gathered some of the most common questions about childhood vaccines that can help you prepare for your child’s appointment.
- Who decides what vaccines my child should get at what age? Immunization schedules in the U.S. are set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These schedules are based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of independent medical and public health experts who review all available data about each vaccine, focusing on safety and effectiveness, from clinical trials and other studies.
- Aren’t some of the diseases that children are vaccinated against no longer a problem in the U.S., like polio? While some diseases are no longer common in the U.S., there are still a concerning number of cases worldwide. In a world where people travel globally, there remains a risk that your child could be exposed to someone who has one of these diseases that are uncommon in this country. In addition, when people don’t get recommended vaccinations, there can be a resurgence of the disease in the U.S. For example, fewer people in the U.S. have been receiving the full series of MMR shots. Most years, about 100 people in this country are diagnosed with measles, but in 2019 that number rose to 1,200. It’s important to understand that measles can cause serious complications, including swelling in the brain, pneumonia, and blindness. Even chickenpox, a disease many people consider to be just a nuisance, can cause brain swelling, skin infections, pneumonia, liver problems, and sepsis (blood infection).
- Can my child get the disease from a vaccine? While people can experience side effects like low fever, chills, or a headache after a vaccine, vaccines are made of either dead or very, very weak versions of the virus or bacteria that are unable to cause disease. If your child has a weakened immune system due to cancer treatment or an autoimmune disease, your doctor may recommend using vaccines that contain dead viruses or bacteria or recommend against certain vaccines.