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Is That a Fact? What You Need to Know About School Immunizations

Facts About School Immunizations for Parents

Heading back to school can be exciting for your child. While it means an end to “the dog days of summer,” it brings with it many possibilities. There are opportunities to meet new friends, learn new things and perhaps strap on a new backpack or put on a new school outfit!

But with the start of a new school year also comes close contact with other students and the easy spread of germs. So how do you, as a concerned parent, ensure your child is best protected?

Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend immunizations for school-age children.

Let’s take a look at the facts, like whether your child really needs to get shots – and, if he or she does, where can you go to get the needed vaccinations for school that fits easily into your hectic schedule. 

Are vaccines required for my child to go to school?

Yes. States are responsible for establishing laws for vaccinations, and while all 50 states have a school immunization requirement of some kind, not all states require all vaccines. They are recommended however.

If your child enters kindergarten in Missouri, for example, five shots are required, whereas if he or she is starting school in Connecticut, count on getting nine shots, including booster doses, before school starts in late-August or early-September.

In the last few years, schools have begun to send children home for so-called "exclusion days" from school until their vaccination records are updated.

Also, certain child care providers may also require your child to have vaccinations before they are able to attend or possibly sign-up for daycare.

Here’s an overview of state-based vaccinations for your child and what diseases immunization prevents, as well as what you could happen to your child should you neglect getting immunized.

Vaccine

What States Require

Disease Vaccine Prevents

Disease Complications from the Virus

Hep B

All states EXCEPT Alabama, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota

 Hepatitis B

Chronic liver infection, liver failure and liver cancer

DTaP (or TDaP for older children)

All states

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)

Swelling of the heart muscle, heart failure, coma, paralysis, and death

Hib

Connecticut and North Carolina

Haemophilus influenzae type b (i.e., meningitis, pneumonia, cellulitis, infectious arthritis, etc.)

Meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (infection of the lungs), intellectual disability, epiglottitis (life-threatening infection that can block the windpipe and cause breathing problems), and death

PCV13

Connecticut and Washington D.C.

Streptococcus pneumonia or pneumococcus

Bacteremia (blood infection), meningitis and death

IPV

All states

Polio

Paralysis and death

Flu

Connecticut

Influenza

Pneumonia and death

MMR

All states

Measles, mumps and rubella

Encephalitis (brain swelling), pneumonia, meningitis, inflammation of testicles or ovaries, deafness, or death

Varicella

All states EXCEPT Montana and Pennsylvania

Chickenpox

Infected blisters, encephalitis (brain swelling), bleeding disorders, and pneumonia

Hep A

Alaska, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah

Hepatitis A

Liver failure, arthralgia (joint pain), and kidney, pancreatic, and blood disorders

 

Annually, tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented with vaccines. To ensure that both their students and the larger community are safe, some schools and daycares have taken matters into their own hands. Because research shows that outbreaks tend to cluster geographically in areas where immunization rates are low, many educational institutions require vaccinations as part of their admissions policy, regardless of state law.

Religious and philosophical exemptions to these laws exist in some states – inquire with your local health authority or school for more details.

Is it safe for my child to receive immunizations?

Yes. We get it: your number one priority is your child’s health. So it’s reasonable to have concerns over anything you give your child.

Before any vaccine is recommended for use in the U.S., highly trained scientists and doctors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC perform a series of clinical trials over a 10-year span to make sure it’s both safe and effective.

Then, once it’s licensed, these experts continue to monitor the vaccine to make sure there are no safety concerns. 

Vaccines, like any medications, can cause side effects. But these are usually mild (e.g., soreness where the shot was given or a low-grade fever) and go away within a few days. Statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) show that childhood immunizations are 90-99% effective in preventing disease and save 2.5 million children every year – or 285 children every hour – from preventable disease. Serious side effects are rare, with only one in a million children having a serious allergic reaction.

Are vaccines only for babies and school-aged children?

No. While immunizations might seem like they are just for the sake of your school requirements, getting pediatric vaccines can in fact help your child develop immunity against diseases before coming into contact with them, so get them well before school starts. They’re especially important for babies and young kids who are at greater risk for infectious diseases, since their immune systems haven’t yet developed the defenses to fight invading bacteria or viruses. However, vaccines are not just for the early years. Immunizations are recommended for people of all ages.

One reason additional shots are needed is because vaccines wear off over time. While your child should receive doses of DTaP for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) before age 7, for example, a booster TDaP shot is needed at age 11-12.

Also recommended around this age are HPV and meningococcal shots. HPV protects from the human papillomavirus, which 14 million Americans contract each year and can cause various forms of cancer. And the meningococcal vaccine helps prevent meningococcal disease, which can lead to infections of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord as well as bloodstream infections.

For adults, your lifestyle, job, travel, and health conditions can impact what vaccines are recommended. Shots that are needed for pregnant women, differ from those needed for college students, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions. Flu shots are also recommended for all people annually, starting at 6 months.

Wonder what specific vaccines you should get? Take this quiz to find out!

Do urgent care centers offer immunizations?

GoHealth Urgent Care sure does! In addition to providing well visits and treating various illnesses and injuries, many urgent care centers also serve as walk-in immunization clinics. For parents in California, Connecticut, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and Washington, that means it’s easy to get the vaccinations needed for the start of school.

You can stop by any GoHeath Urgent Care center with your child and receive prompt service from our team of compassionate healthcare providers – individuals who understand that kids might be scared or reluctant when it comes to shots, and that’s okay.

We offer vaccinations including TDaP shots (for tetanus) and flu shots (for influenza) , ensuring your whole family stays healthy with protection against some of the most common diseases. Whether you have insurance coverage or not, the costs for immunizations are minimal at GoHealth Urgent Care. Find a center near you by using the widget below.

Using the location widget below, you can find a center nearest you and book your appointment online (or just come in!) We’re here to help!

Summary of Vaccination Information for Parents

When it comes to your child’s health, you can never be too cautious. Vaccines protect your child and your family, as well as those around you in your community. As you plan for back to school, be sure to visit your doctor to ensure all your child’s immunizations are up to date. Then, with classmates, play dates or extracurricular activities, your child will have the best line of defense against contagious vaccine-preventable diseases.

For vaccinations, GoHealth Urgent Care partners with these regional healthcare providers:

 

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