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Back To School: 7 common questions about immunizations

Posted on Aug. 26, 2013 ( comments)

It’s back-to-school time, and although you might already have paper and pencils, put immunizations on your shopping list to make sure your kids are protected as they head to class.

Vaccinations protect your children from certain deadly diseases, prevent outbreaks, and promote healthy classrooms.

Children are due for a series of immunizations between the ages of 4 and 6, and again at between the ages of 11 and 12, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some vaccines due at these ages are also required by the Washington State Department of Health prior to the first day of kindergarten and sixth grade.

Why should my child be up-to-date on vaccinations?

Vaccinations are important for both the health of your kids and the health of our community. Unvaccinated kids are more likely to catch and spread serious illnesses like whooping cough and measles, which can be prevented by vaccines, according to the state Department of Health. Making sure kids have all recommended immunizations protects them, their classmates, friends, and families from preventable diseases. Kids who aren’t fully immunized may be excluded from attending school, preschool, or child care if a disease outbreak occurs.

What are the requirements?

By the time your child enters Kindergarten, required vaccinations will include:

  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Polio
  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
  • Chicken pox
  • A yearly flu shot

The average 11- to 12-year-old should receive these immunizations before school:

  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV, done in three doses)
  • Meningitis (MCV4)
  • A yearly flu shot
  • Any missing shots from the list above

How soon should my child receive immunizations?

Kids should get their shots as soon as they can. If they wait until just before school starts, it’s very busy and wait times might be long. To avoid the rush when school starts, get vaccines as soon as children reach their 4th and 11th birthdays.

Where should we go to get them?

Children can get vaccinations from their primary-care provider. If a child doesn’t have a primary-care provider, check for other locations by visiting Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Simply bring your child and your child’s vaccine records with you.

Where can I find my child’s vaccine records?

Contact your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic. If your child is in the Washington State Immunization Information Registry, providers can track shot history and print specific forms; call 1-800-325-5599 to find out if your child is listed. Always keep shot records in case your child moves, gets a job, or goes elsewhere for school. You’ll need it when you least expect it.

How much will it cost?

At a doctor’s office, there may be a small administrative fee, which can be billed to insurance. A child’s vaccines are free at Mary Bridge Mobile Immunization Clinics. Check for Mobile Immunization Clinic dates, times and locations at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

My child gets nervous around needles. Got any tips?

Shot anxiety feels worse than the shot itself. Nurses administer vaccines quickly and use distraction and relaxation techniques to calm nerves. Kids are often surprised by how little it hurts.

Robin Peterson, RN, MSN, is Supervisor of Pediatric Specialty Clinics for MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center.

This story is part of a series of "Back-to-School Tips" from the experts at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center. Find more back-to-school tips and tricks in our online back-to-school center.

Posted in: Kids' Health

About The Author

Robin Peterson, RN, MSN
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