Recommended Vaccines for Back to School
School is about to begin again. Back to school means new pencils, fresh notebooks, a new lunch box and a few immunizations or vaccinations to keep your child’s immune system stimulated and ready to react to certain kinds of viruses or bacteria. Immunizations are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies, just as if you were exposed to the actual disease. Vaccines contain the same germs that cause disease. For example, the flu vaccination contains the actual flu virus.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, vaccines have contributed to a reduction in childhood illnesses. Vaccines for diseases such as polio and smallpox have also contributed to the elimination of such diseases in the United States.
There are several types of vaccines administered today. One vaccine type is an attenuated live virus, which contains a live virus that’s been weakened during the manufacturing process. Another vaccine type is an inactivated virus, which contains a virus that’s been killed so that it doesn’t cause disease. Other types include subunits, which contain only a portion of a disease-causing bacteria, a toxoid like those used to prevent tetanus or diphtheria disease, and recombinant, which is genetically engineered. Here are some common vaccines that are routinely given to children:
- Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis – This vaccination is a five-dose series given beginning at 2 months and ending with a final dose between age 4 and 6.
- Polio – The inactivated poliovirus vaccine is a four-dose series given at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months, and ages 4 to 6. The final dose in the series should be administered on or after the 4th birthday and at least six months after the previous dose.
- Flu - The flu, or influenza, is an annual vaccine. This vaccine is available via shot. For children between the ages of 6 and 8 who haven’t received the vaccine before get two doses. Children age 9 and above should receive one dose. Flu season is typically between October and May. There’s a possibility for some mild side effects, such as aches, low grade fever and nausea.
- Measles, mumps, rubella – The MMR vaccine is recommended for all school-aged children. This is a two-dose series given at 12 to 15 months, and between age 4 and 6. It’s recommended that infants ages 6-11 months who are traveling outside the U.S. be given one dose, and revaccinated with the two-dose series upon arrival back in the U.S. Children age 1 and older who are traveling outside the U.S. should have the full two-dose series.
- Human papillomavirus – The HPV vaccine is a two-dose series. The vaccination series can start at age 9 and there are 6 to 12 months between doses. If you start the schedule at age 15, you’ll follow a two-dose schedule, with five months between doses. If you start after age 15, there’s a three-dose schedule with minimum intervals of four weeks between the first and second doses, and 12 weeks between the second and third doses. This vaccine may also help prevent against cancer.
- Meningococcal - This vaccine is recommended for children aged 11 or 12 and should be followed up with a booster between the ages of 16 and 18. This vaccine may help prevent your child from contracting meningitis.
Based on your child’s age and medical history, recommendations may vary. You should review the vaccine information sheets and talk to your pediatrician about the benefits and risks of all vaccines. If you don’t have a pediatrician or need a physician referral, call (888) 487-0183.