Each year, millions of children receive immunization shots in order to prepare for school, whether it's preschool, kindergarten, first grade, high school or college. These vaccination requirements have been put in place to ensure the safety of all the children in those schools. Read on to learn more about why vaccinations are required and how to find out which immunization shots you child will need before attending school.
Preschool and Elementary Immunization Requirements
When children are in their first months and years of life, vaccinations are often considered to be optional. Parents may decide whether they want their children to receive these immunization shots based on their own personal beliefs, religious traditions or the health of their baby. However, some vaccinations become mandatory once a child is ready to enter school. These requirements have been put in place to protect not only the child, but also all those who the child will come into contact once he or she reaches school age. That includes other students, teachers, school administrators, parents and any other school visitors.
The first time that most parents will encounter these school immunization requirements is when their child is ready to enter preschool, kindergarten or elementary school. There are also some child care centers open to babies and toddlers which have their own vaccination requirements. However, it is the school requirements that are regulated by law. Some of the most common vaccinations required for admittance to preschool, kindergarten or elementary school include:
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus influenza (hib)
It's very important to note that most states do not require each and every one of these vaccinations. Rather, each state has their own laws which require certain immunization shots by the time a child enters preschool or elementary school. The types of vaccinations required, along with the timeline for when the shots should be received, vary according to each state's health laws. For a complete list of required vaccinations by state, visit the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) website listed below.
Middle School and College Immunization Requirements
Most students have received all of the vaccines they need by middle school. However, there are some states which require additional vaccinations as students reach their early teen years. For example, while some states require the hepatitis A and hepatitis B immunization shots in kindergarten or first grade, others do not require those particular vaccinations until middle school. Again, it's vital to check your state's vaccination requirement listings to make sure that your child is up-to-date on all shots and is receiving their vaccinations at the appropriate times.
For high school students who plan to attend college, it's important to check with the admissions department about which vaccinations will be required upon acceptance, if any. Most students have plenty of time to receive these vaccinations over the summer before they begin classes in the fall of their freshman year at college. Today, the most common vaccination required to attend college is the meningococcal vaccine which prevents meningitis. This particular infection can spread quickly in the dormitory living environment on many college campuses. Although most states do not require this vaccination, colleges may make it a requirement for their own admissions process.
Some parents are against some or all immunization shots because they believe it will do more harm than good for their child's health. Some of the possible downsides of receiving vaccinations include:
- Experiencing symptoms of the illness or infection
- Seizures, joint pain or stiffness
- Allergic reactions, some of which may be fatal
In addition to these issues, many parents decide to opt out of vaccinations for philosophical or religious reasons (which they have the right to do in some states).
However, there are many positive results that typically occur when vaccinations are given, including:
- The child won't have to suffer through a preventable disease.
- Parents won't have to figure out a way to take days or weeks off of work to care for a sick child.
- Outbreaks of these diseases and infections become nearly impossible with high vaccination rates.
- Serious reactions to immunization shots are extremely rare.
If you have any concerns about whether vaccination is right for your child, consult your physician or pediatrician right away. These health professionals are required to provide all information about the possible risks and rewards of receiving these school immunization shots. Be sure to mention if your child has any allergy or other health-related issues which may affect whether they can receive certain vaccinations. You can also refer to the CDC website listed below, where an abundance of information about vaccinations and school immunization requirements can be found.