It’s a busy time of the year, when parents, students and teachers alike are gathering all the items needed for a new school year.
Baptist Health pediatrician Raelene Mapes, DO, says one of the most important things to take into the new semester is an updated vaccination record.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all healthy children be vaccinated,” said Dr. Mapes. “But everyone in the household, whether you’re a parent or grandparent, needs to be aware of what vaccinations they should be getting.”
The facts around immunizations provide overwhelming evidence that vaccines are an integral part of your child’s healthcare. In fact, vaccines play a critical role in protecting our children from illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening. By educating yourself about your child’s vaccines and the recommended immunization schedule, you can do your part to keep both your child and their classmates safe from preventable sickness and disease. Learn more about the role immunizations play in your child’s health, from pre-k to kindergarten to senior year.
Ages 6 and Under
Before the age of 6, it is recommended that children receive immunizations for 14 different diseases, and for good reason. Every year, numerous unvaccinated infants and young children are hospitalized due to preventable diseases. Before a child can attend public or private school, Arkansas requires the following vaccines: poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP), measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rotavirus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13) and varicella (chickenpox).
Covid vaccines are now recommended for kids as young as 6 months. In kids who start the series before age 5, the primary regimen can be two or three doses depending on the product. The primary series is two doses if started when aged 5-17. Booster doses are recommended for all persons over 5 years and for certain groups under 5 years with weakened immune systems. Two boosters are recommended for persons over 50. The criteria for and recommended timing of boosters is complicated. Baptist Health recommends using the CDC’s Covid-19 booster tool to determine what is recommended for you.
If a child has missed any of the vaccinations they should have received before age 6, they should be caught up on all immunizations as soon as possible. Around age 11 they should have the meningococcal vaccine. Booster shots should also be given every ten years for tetanus, diphtheria (Tdap), and whooping cough. It is recommended that children receive yearly flu shots, though it is not required by schools.
HPV vaccine should routinely be given to 11-year-olds (both boys and girls). If the first dose is given before age 15, only two doses are needed. Otherwise, three are needed.
Ages 18 and Up
The conversation surrounding vaccinations often centers around infants and children, yet it’s also crucial for high school and college students to be current on their immunizations including the meningococcal vaccine and MMR. In fact, most colleges and universities require incoming freshmen and those living in on-campus housing to show proof that their immunization record is up to date since diseases can quickly spread through the communal-style dorm accommodations. Young adults are recommended to get the HPV vaccine as well.
How Can You Stay on Track?
Keeping up with your child’s vaccines can be daunting, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it easy. Check the schedules below against your child’s immunization records to make sure you’re on track.