Back-to-School Vaccines

Vaccination for kids before new school year may be required by state law

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

The back-to-school season is here and store shelves are stocked with pencils, folders and notebooks of all colors and sizes. Perhaps the most important thing parents can equip kids with, however, is a visit to the doctor's office.

Depending on age, children are required by state law to receive certain vaccines before ever stepping into a classroom.

Vaccines contain a tiny dose of a weakened or inactive version of a disease-causing agent, such as a virus or bacterium. However, vaccines rarely cause any noticeable symptoms. Instead, vaccines work by silently jump-starting the immune system. This prepares the body to easily fight off the disease, should it ever become infected.

Many diseases have become rare in the US as a result of successful vaccination. However, it's still important to vaccinate to prevent the resurgence of these diseases.

When Are Vaccines Required?

Stefanie Spaeth, MD, a pediatrician at Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas, TX, told dailyRx News, "The best way to keep up with your child's vaccines is to make sure your child is up to date on their annual checkups. Every year your child should go into the doctor for a regular checkup and your doctor will review the shot record and make sure your child is up to date. It's always a good idea for parents to keep track of their own child's immunizations as well."

The best age to vaccinate and the length of time a vaccine is effective differs from vaccine to vaccine. Some medical conditions also require a different vaccine schedule.

While state requirements outline when each vaccine should be received, many states will grant a medical exemption when necessary or offer vaccination exemptions for religious or philosophical objections.

Vaccines Before Kindergarten

Even if your child received a dose as an infant, many vaccines require a second dose (a booster) after the age of 4.

These vaccinations include:

  • Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis
  • Polio
  • Measles/mumps/rubella (MMR)
  • Chicken pox (varicella)

Most states also require hepatitis B vaccination, although this does not require a booster and is typically given to infants.

Vaccines Before Seventh Grade

More vaccinations are typically required before seventh grade, either as boosters or as initial vaccinations.

These vaccinations include:

  • Meningococcal
  • Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Annual Vaccinations

Some schools may also require an influenza vaccine — sometimes known as the flu shot or flu mist.

Due to the ever-changing nature of this virus, these vaccines are designed to protect against three or four flu strains that are predicted to be prevalent during a particular season.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2015