Back to School Vaccinations
As summer comes to a close, it marks the start of a new school year. Back-to-school season is a time when parents are centered around getting new clothes and school supplies for their children. It is also a good time to ensure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. It is recommended that children should be immunized beginning at birth and throughout their childhood. Plus, the state requires children get vaccinated against certain communicable diseases if they are attending school. Certain vaccinations are required for school-aged children at different ages.
When a child is entering school for the first time a large number of vaccinations are required. This group of immunizations are needed before starting kindergarten, which is when your child is between four and five years old. Some of these vaccinations include Hepatitis, Chickenpox, Polio, Measles, and more. You can see a full list of the immunizations that are required at health.pa.gov. The Department of Health also provides parents with a timeline of when these vaccinations should be administered to their children.
Your child is required to have these vaccinations before they begin their first day of school. If they are not up-to-date, they will be given a grace period to get caught up. Dr. Lavanya Karri, a St. Clair Medical Group Internal Medicine physician expresses, “You should have a discussion with your doctor and make sure that your child has the necessary shots to begin school. If your child does not have everything, you can work with your physician to create a plan of action to get your child caught up.”
“From Kindergarten and upwards, it is recommended to stay up to date on annual physicals with pediatrics to maintain any requirements, annually, and to get them ready for the next check point which takes place when children enter seventh grade,” explains Dr. Karri. Therefore, between the ages of 12 and 13, children are obligated to have received immunizations such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Meningococcal Disease. You are also supposed to get booster shots for some of the vaccinations that you received before entering kindergarten.
When you are a senior in high school, between the ages of 17 and 18, you will have your last vaccination check point. These vaccinations are similar to the ones you receive when you are entering the seventh grade. The ones required are a range of different booster shots to help extend the protection of the immunizations that you have previously received. “These updates will get the student ready for college and build immunity for infections like meningitis, which pose as a threat during college years,” says Dr. Karri.
On top of the immunizations you are required to get throughout your childhood, it is also highly recommended, but not required, for you to get an annual flu shot. Dr. Karri suggests that you and your child get the flu vaccine around September or October every year. The peak flu season lasts about four to six months, so getting your flu shot around that time will keep you protected until the end of the season, which is around March.
Getting a flu shot yearly is important because the flu is constantly changing. Every year, different strains of the virus are developing. “It is not the same from year to year, so by getting your shot every year, it helps to reduce infection rates and lessen the after-effect of the virus,” explains Dr. Karri.
The Importance of Vaccinations
“When your child gets vaccinated, not only does it help to protect them, but it also helps to reduce infection rates and build up immunity within the community as a whole,” says Dr. Karri. You help to limit the spread of certain diseases, which in turn limits the disease burden within your community. Individuals who are immunocompromised—which can include those with asthma, lung diseases, or other health concerns—are more heavily affected by illnesses. Therefore, people who are vaccinated are also helping to keep those who are part of the high-risk community safe.
Getting your child vaccinated can also help to have a positive impact on their education. “A child’s health is extremely important within this phase of life, because this is the prime time for education,” explains Dr. Karri. If a child is repeatedly missing school due to infections and illness, they are missing prime learning time, which can have a negative impact on their grades. Illness can also result in fatigue and reduce a child’s ability to perform within school sports and extracurricular activities. By staying up-to-date with all vaccinations, you can help to keep your child healthy and functioning to the best of their ability.
Consult Your Physician
“Many people have anxieties or worries regarding vaccinations. There are many myths and risk factors out in the world, so it is important to talk with your physician before making a decision about vaccinations,” explains Dr. Karri. Your physician can help answer any questions and ease your mind. They are there to help you create the best course of action for your child, so do not hesitate to reach out and ask questions. If you’re looking for a new primary care provider for you and your family, contact St. Clair Medical Group Internal Medicine at 412.942.6755.
Dr. Karri specializes in internal medicine. She earned her medical degree at Andhra Medical College and completed her residency at Drexel University College of Medicine. She completed her fellowship at the University of Arizona at Tucson and is board certified by the American Board of Integrative Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Karri practices with St. Clair Medical Group Internal Medicine. To contact Dr. Karri, please call 412.942.6755.