Back to School Vaccinations
By: Chelsea Slyker, PharmD, MPH
As the back to school season begins you probably have a list of school supplies to buy, but have you made sure your child is up to date on their vaccines? Whether it be a booster shot, an annual flu shot, or the HPV vaccine series, now is a good time to make sure your child is protected against the appropriate preventable diseases. Vaccinations may vary based on medical conditions or the schedule followed, so be sure to check with your doctor regularly.
What are the vaccinations?
Tdap- Protects against tetanus, diptheria, and whooping cough. This is a booster shot for the DTaP vaccine. After the Tdap vaccine, adults should receive the Td booster vaccine every ten years for continued protection.
Meningococcal- Protects against meningococcal disease, which can attack the lining of the brain and spinal cord. One dose should be given around 11 to 12 years of age, with another one before starting college around 17 to 18 years of age.
HepB- Protects against hepatitis B, a disease contracted through contact with blood or body fluids. Hepatitis B can result in chronic liver infection and liver failure if left untreated. This can be given as young as six months.
HPV- Protects against human papillomavirus which can cause cervical cancer. This is a two to three shot series depending on when you get them. The vaccine is most effective when given before a teenager becomes sexually active.
Influenza- Protects against influenza. It changes yearly based on the most common strains of influenza, which is why it is important to get annually. It takes two weeks to be effective, so getting it early is best. Common adverse effects include injection site soreness and mild flu-like symptoms which should resolve in days.
When should you get them?
The majority of vaccinations should be completed within the first two to three years of life. After that, booster shots are given periodically to ensure continued protection. There are a few vaccines, such as the HPV and meningococcal vaccines, that are given only in the teenage years.
Around age 11 or 12, there are some boosters that are needed to extend protection. It is always a good idea to ensure these are up to date before going back to school where your child may be exposed to hundreds of other children. The necessary boosters include one dose of Tdap and one dose of the meningococcal vaccine. At this age your child should have completed the hepatitis B series and if not, it should be completed now. You can also consider the Gardasil vaccine to protect against HPV that can cause cervical cancers. An influenza shot can be given in those over 6 months of age and is important to get on a yearly basis before flu season starts.
Vaccine schedules may vary in those who are immunocompromised or who have certain medical conditions. Consult your doctor to determine an appropriate vaccination schedule for you or your child to ensure protection against avoidable diseases and infections.
Visit the CDC website for detailed vaccination schedules: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html