Here Are the Back-To-School Vaccinations Your Kids Need

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Immunized School Kids

When checking off your back-to-school list, don’t forget the vaccinations.

In California, few are immune from the state’s strict vaccination requirements for children attending schools and child care programs. State law requires immunization against childhood diseases including diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, mumps, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, rubella, tetanus, and chickenpox (varicella).

Since the state passed SB 277, a law that took effect for the 2016-2017 school year, immunization rates for California kindergarteners are at their highest point since 2001.

“Vaccinations are the most important, safe, and effective way we have to prevent a number of deadly diseases.”

Schools generally require proof of vaccines before kids can attend their classes, but there are even better reasons to make sure your children are fully vaccinated.

“Vaccinations are the most important, safe, and effective way we have to prevent a number of deadly diseases,” says Dr. Vikram Anand, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai.

“While schools provide an important environment for learning and growing, they also provide the perfect opportunity for infections to spread. Vaccinating children is the best way to prevent this from happening. You’re not only keeping your child safe, you’re also protecting sick children with weakened immune systems who can’t fight infections.”

Use the list below to make sure your child is up-to-date on the immunizations required for California child care and schools according to the California Department of Public Health.

Immunizations needed before starting preschool or child care programs

2-3 months:

  • 1 Polio
  • 1 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)
  • 1 Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • 1 Hepatitis B

4-5 months:

  • 2 Polio
  • 2 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)
  • 2 Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • 2 Hepatitis B

6-14 months:

  • 2 Polio
  • 3 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • 2 Hepatitis B

15-17 months:

  • 3 Polio
  • 3 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)
  • 2 Hepatitis B
  • 1 Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) on or after 1st birthday
  • 1 Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) on or after 1st birthday

18 months-5 years:

  • 3 Polio
  • 4 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP)
  • 3 Hepatitis B
  • 1 Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) on or after the 1st birthday
  • 1 Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) on or after the 1st birthday
  • 1 Varicella (chickenpox)

Immunizations needed for students entering school between ages 4 and 6

  • 5 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP, DTP, or DT) — (4 doses OK if one was given on or after 4th birthday)
  • 4 Polio (OPV or IPV) — (3 doses OK if one was given on or after 4th birthday)
  • 3 Hepatitis B
  • 2 Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) — (Both given on or after 1st birthday)
  • 1 Varicella (chickenpox)

Immunizations needed for students ages 7 to 17

  • 4 Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP, DTP, DT, Tdap, or Td) — (3 doses OK if last dose was given on or after 2nd birthday)
  • 4 Polio (OPV or IPV) — (3 doses OK if one was given on or after 2nd birthday)
  • 1 Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) — (2 doses required at 7th grade)
  • 1-2 Varicella (chickenpox) — (Admission at ages 7-12 years need 1 dose; ages 13-17 years need 2 doses)
  • 1 Tetanus, Diphtheria,and Pertussis (Tdap) — at 7th grade or out-of-state transfer admission at 8th–12th grades (1 dose on or after the 7th birthday)

Other vaccines to consider

Dr. Anand recommends children get the HPV vaccine, which can prevent human papilloma virus infections, a cause of cervical and other cancers.

“The HPV vaccine does work better when you give it to children 9 to 11 years old,” he says. “In fact, if they get the vaccine before age 14, they only need two doses since they respond much better than older teenagers, who usually need three doses.”

Adults who want to volunteer at schools will want to check with their school for any vaccine requirements or other health clearances. Universities also usually require vaccinations, and students should make sure their shots are up to date before heading back to campus.

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