Quick Guide to Kindergarten Immunizations
What immunizations are required?Even though the federal government does not have vaccine regulations, all 50 states require children in public schools to have certain immunizations. Each state has slightly different vaccine requirements, so parents should check with the local health department or the school office to see which specific immunizations their kindergartner will need.
Children who have followed the immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) won’t need to do anything—they will have all of the necessary vaccines in time for kindergarten. However, if parents have missed any vaccination appointments or chosen to delay certain immunizations, they will need to catch up before starting school. If this is the case, their pediatrician can recommend a schedule that will get them fully vaccinated as soon as possible. In some states, the child can still attend class so long as all of the future vaccination appointments have been formally scheduled.
List of immunizationsIn the following list of immunizations, you’ll note that protection from several illnesses can be combined into a single shot. In addition, some of the vaccinations require several doses (spaced out over a period of weeks or months) in order for a child to reach full immunity.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (5 doses)
This vaccine is commonly abbreviated as DTaP or DTP.
- Diphtheria is extremely rare in the United States. The disease affects the membranes of the nose and throat. In serious cases, it can spread to the heart and brain.
- Also known as “lockjaw,” tetanus is also uncommon in this country. The disease affects the nervous system and it has no cure.
- Pertussis is better known as “whooping cough.” It spreads very easily and a pertussis epidemic has recently been declared in California.
MMR (2 doses)
This vaccine contains protection from three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Measles starts with cold symptoms and, eventually, the child develops spots. Pneumonia, brain swelling, and other complications are possible. There are generally less than 200 cases of measles in the United States each year, however in 2014 a record of 667 cases were reported.
- The infection that causes mumps affects the parotid glands, which sit near the ears. Hearing loss is common in people who’ve had mumps, but fortunately, the MMR vaccination has lowered disease rates by 99% since it was first introduced in 1967.
- According to the CDC, rubella has been eliminated in the United States. Also known as “German measles,” the illness has symptoms that are similar to measles, but they’re often less severe.
Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (4 doses)
Commonly abbreviated as “Hib”, this vaccine protects against a specific type of bacteria that causes several dangerous illnesses. The most common ones are brain infections, blood infections, and pneumonia.
Hepatitis B (3 doses)
This disease is often called “Hep B.” It can turn into a life-long condition and it often causes serious liver damage.
Varicella (1 or 2 doses)
This vaccine protects against chickenpox, an illness that causes an extremely itchy skin rash. In some cases, chickenpox can cause severe dehydration, pneumonia, and streptococcal infections in the skin.
Keep in mind, all children older than six-months of age should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every year, usually in September or October.
Even though most of the terrible diseases listed in this article are extremely rare in the United States, vaccines still represent a critically important public health initiative. Many dangerous germs are brought into the country every day from people who have traveled abroad. Without vaccinations, those germs could trigger outbreaks in the United States. In fact, that exact situation has occurred in recent years with measles outbreaks in New York City and Texas.
Bottom line: vaccines save lives. In the 20th century, they were responsible for virtually eliminating eight deadly diseases. Immunizations are, without a doubt, the best way to keep children healthy.
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References: Centers for Disease Control, The Mayo Clinic
Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.
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