Written By Sara Atteberry, CPNP, RN, MSN
As summer break comes to a close, and the new academic year approaches, parents and students begin to prepare for a seamless transition back to school. Amidst the excitement of gathering backpacks and back-to-school supplies, it is crucial not to overlook another essential aspect of preparing for school: immunizations.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and a good time to consider planning your back-to-school wellness visit with your child’s health care provider. This visit may include age-appropriate screenings, physical examination, and an opportunity to discuss and update childhood immunizations. Discussions about vaccine eligibility, safety and schedules can be discussed at your visit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data demonstrates that during the covid-19 pandemic there was a notable decline in both kindergarten and school age vaccination rates in the United States. As communities and schools return to consistent in-personal learning, it is important to get caught up or maintain routine immunizations. Immunizations throughout childhood can help provide immunity to potentially life-threatening diseases and they are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at recommended intervals and ages.
Immunizations play a pivotal role in preserving public health, safeguarding our children, ensuring a strong defense against preventable disease, and maintaining a safe learning environment for all.
Immunizations have been instrumental in eradicating or significantly reducing the prevalence of preventable disease. Immunizations can help safeguard children by creating a shield against illnesses that could lead to severe complications. Schools are a wonderful environment for the learning and sharing of knowledge but can also be an area for contagious diseases because of close proximity and shared spaces. By keeping the student population immunized, caregivers and schools contribute to a safer learning environment for everyone. Less illness can lead to less absenteeism and less learning disruptions. This can also be beneficial for the community as a whole. When a significant portion of the population is immunized, it becomes more difficult for diseases to spread. This protection can be important to a community, especially those who cannot receive vaccinations due to age, medical condition, or other factors.
Many schools, both public and private, have immunization requirements in place to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. According to the Wisconsin Student Immunization Law, there are designated requirements for each age and grade level. This includes protection against Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and Varicella (chickenpox). There are also recommendations for other routine childhood immunizations which include protection against the flu and covid-19. Children typically receive their primary vaccine series between birth and 18 months of age. This includes protection against Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Dtap) haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Pneumococcal disease, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Chickenpox (varicella) and Hepatitis A. Some vaccines that babies get become less effective as they get older and as children grow, they may come into contact with different diseases. Booster doses of vaccines are typically recommended between 4-5 years of age. This includes protection/booster doses for Dtap, Polio, MMR and chickenpox. Additional vaccines are given between ages 11-12 years and includes a booster for Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap), protection against Meningococcal disease, and protection against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Booster vaccines are given again at 16 years of age to protect against Meningococcal disease. Annual vaccines to protect against influenza are also recommended as well as age appropriate Covid-19 vaccines. Routine immunizations are typically covered by insurance or available without cost through the Vaccines for Children Program.
Caregivers can check with their local school office to review both their requirements and recommendations for school entry. There are waivers available for health, religious, or personal conviction reasons.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes recommended childhood vaccine schedules. The timing and spacing of immunizations are important for the best possible protection against preventable diseases. For a full list of childhood vaccinations, you can visit the CDC website or obtain a list from your healthcare provider. Catch-up schedules are also created to safely and effectively get a child caught up if they happen to fall behind in scheduled vaccinations.
In conclusion, it is crucial for parents, educators, and healthcare providers to recognize the significance of back-to-school immunizations. By ensuring all students are vaccinated, we can help create a safer and healthier learning environment and community. Prevention today can help secure a bright and healthy future for our students tomorrow. So, as you make your back-to-school checklist, consider a visit to your health care provider at the top of your list.
Certified by the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Board, Sara Atteberry takes special interest in preventative health and health maintenance, including nutrition and healthy lifestyle education from infancy through adolescence. Western Wisconsin Health encourages parents to schedule back-to-school or annual children’s exams with one of our pediatric providers by calling 715-684-1111. Western Wisconsin Health, Building a Healthier Tomorrow, Together!
Centers for disease control and prevention
American Academy of pediatrics
State of Wisconsin Department of health
Recognizing National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). (2023, July 6). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/index.html
Head Back to school safer and healthier this year! DNPAO CDC
Immunization requirements. (2023, May 31). Wisconsin Department of health Services. https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/immunization/reqs.htm#:text=requirements%20for%20polio%2C%20hepatitis%20B,January%202023%have%20not%20changed
Immunizations: Vaccines for Children Program Information for Parents and patients. (2023, February 27). Wisconsin Department of Health Services. https:www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/immunization/vfc-parent.htm