With the new school year fast approaching, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the state public health officer, is encouraging parents not to wait until the fall to make sure their children are fully immunized before classes start.
"Immunizations are a safe and effective way to help our kids stay healthy in school and protect them from vaccine-preventable illnesses that can be very serious and have lifelong consequences," said Dr. Chapman. "As families make plans for heading back to school, those plans should include making sure their children are up-to-date on required immunizations for school, including an adolescent whooping cough booster shot (Tdap) for incoming 7th graders."
Schools are required to verify each child's immunization record to ensure all shots and boosters are completed before entry to kindergarten and 7th grade. Kindergartners need a total of five DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), four polio, three hepatitis B, two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and one varicella (chickenpox) shot. Kindergarten boosters for DTaP, polio and MMR are given at 4 or 5 years of age. Since 1962, California has required certain vaccinations for incoming kindergarteners. In 2012-2013, nearly 90 percent (almost 500,000 California kindergarten entrants) were fully immunized, with the remainder typically behind on only one or a few required vaccines. In addition, since a new California law was signed in 2010, students entering 7th grade will need to show proof of the whooping cough (pertussis) booster before starting school.
Dr. Chapman urges parents to make an appointment with their provider now to protect themselves and their families and to ensure kids start school on time.
If a child does not have health insurance, or is only partially insured, a doctor or local health department can provide information about the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free or low-cost immunizations.
Some local health departments are offering expanded immunization clinics during the month of August, National Immunization Awareness Month. To learn more about immunizations required for school entry, visit shotsforschool.org.