August is officially back-to-school month! While everyone is busy crossing items off the never-ending to-do list, one that is often overlooked is back-to-school vaccinations. As a parent or caregiver, making sure your children are up-to-date with their recommended vaccinations is an important step in ensuring their long-term health.
Outbreaks of measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough) and other vaccine-preventable diseases still occur in the United States. Most vaccine-preventable diseases are contagious and can be serious—sometimes fatal—in children and adults with whom they have contact. Therefore, it is important that all vaccine-eligible children are up to date on all recommended vaccinations prior to each school year.
Ages 4 to 6 Years (Kindergarten)
Rising kindergarteners should receive booster doses of previous vaccines including:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP)
- Polio (IPV)
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
These vaccines are required for school entrance in the state of South Carolina, unless there is a documented exemption on file with the school.
Hepatitis B vaccination is also required for school entry; however, most children complete the series prior to starting kindergarten.
Ages 7 to 10 Years (Catch-Up)
There are no required vaccinations for this age group, so this time period is for catch-up vaccinations for those who are behind schedule. Children who have not received all doses of the DTaP vaccine series should receive a single dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine as catch-up vaccination.
Ages 11 to 12 Years (Preteens)
Preteens typically fall behind with their recommended vaccines because most are healthy and do not receive regular medical care. They are, however, urged to receive three vaccines:
- Tdap—This vaccine now is required in South Carolina in all 7th through 12th graders starting in 2018-2019.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4)—This vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause meningococcal disease, including meningitis and sepsis.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)—This vaccine helps protect both females and males from HPV infection and certain cancers caused by HPV.
Ages 13 to 18 Years (Teens)
A booster dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is needed at age 16. Teens may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (which is not included in the MCV4 vaccine), preferably between ages 16 and 18.
Many colleges require meningococcal conjugate vaccine for first-year college students living in residence halls, so it is important to schedule an appointment with your teen’s healthcare provider to get their needed vaccines and catch-up on any missed doses.
Everyone 6 months old and older should receive a YEARLY, age-appropriate influenza (flu) vaccine. If your child is between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old and has never received an influenza vaccine, they will need 2 doses separated by 4 weeks. Ideally, influenza vaccination should occur in September or October, so while you may not be able to complete this task before school starts, make a reminder for your entire family to get the influenza vaccine this fall.
Vaccines are one of the best ways to protect your child and family from vaccine-preventable diseases. When you’re getting your kids ready for the upcoming school year, make sure to include back-to-school vaccine appointments on your checklist!
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Carmen Faulkner-Fennell, PharmD, BCPS (AQ-ID) is the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Clinical Pharmacy Specialist for Greenville Health System.