As parents gather school supplies and backpacks, many are also looking to make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines ahead of the new school year.
“The recommended vaccines differ with the age of the child returning to school,” Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a spokesperson for American Academy of Pediatrics, tells PEOPLE.
“Vaccines are given at certain ages to provide maximum protective benefit to children before they become at risk for the specific vaccine-preventable diseases,” says Dr. Rathore, who is also the associate Department of Pediatrics chair at the University of Florida.
“Delaying the vaccines will place the child and those children around them at unnecessary risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. These vaccines have been studied for specific ages and have been found to be safe and effective,” Dr. Rathore adds.
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Dr. Rathore says the question of “Are vaccines safe?” is the top annual inquiry.
“Yes, vaccines are safe and yes, your child should receive the recommended vaccines at the recommended ages. When children return to school, they come in contact with many other children so this is a good time to review vaccines with the child’s pediatricians and get them updated,” Dr. Rathore explains.
(Required vaccines and doses for school entry differ by jurisdictions however these are the vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.)
For children age 5: Hepatitis A (2 doses) & B (3 doses), rotavirus (2 or 3 doses depending on which vaccine is used), inactivated polio virus (3 doses at least, 4th dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (4 doses at least 5th dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), haemophilus influenzae type B (3 or 4 doses depending on the vaccine), 13 valent Pneumococcal conjugate (3 doses), measles, mumps and rubella (1 dose at least, 2nd dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), and varicella (chickenpox; 1 dose at least, 2nd dose is given 4 to 6 years of age).
For children 11 years and older: Meningococcal conjugate, diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis, and human papillomavirus vaccine (starting at 9 years of age).
The influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all eligible children starting at 6 months of age.
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According to the CDC, all 51 states, including the District of Columbia, have established vaccination requirements for public school children and daycare facilities. (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota’s state laws are unclear about private school requirements.)
California and Michigan require that all school-age children receive vaccines such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, varicella and meningococcal before they allow entry into all public and non-public schools.
And each state has varying exemption processes based on religious and philosophical beliefs.
Arizona, Delaware, Minnesota and Virginia require parents to prepare an affidavit of religious belief, which includes a statement that “their belief is not a political, sociological or philosophical view of a merely personal moral code,” according to the CDC. Similarly, Iowa and New Jersey laws prohibit “philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations.”
In Arkansas, Georgia, North Dakota and Wyoming, children who have not been immunized may be “excluded” or “removed” from school for a period of time in the event of an epidemic. However, for children in Hawaii, if there is dangers of an epidemic, “no exemption from immunization against the disease shall be recognized.”
Kentucky law allows for religious exemptions “provided that in the event of an epidemic, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services may require the immunization of all persons within the area of epidemic against the disease responsible.”
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