A Guide to Back-to-School Immunizations

By Rimda Gupta, MD
Rimda Gupta is a physician at Vanderbilt Integrated Internal Medicine Cedar Lane in Tullahoma

Rimda Gupta, MD

This August, students in Tennessee head back to school, and that means it’s time to get up to date on immunizations.

The decision to vaccinate your children is one that will protect them and help protect those who are unable to get vaccinated. Children with weakened immune systems or other illnesses aren’t always able to receive some or all vaccines because they could be harmful or ineffective.

In short, decades of vaccination have protected children and whole families, and it’s deeply important we continue to use these life-saving tools.

A generation ago, children risked exposure to measles, mumps, polio, rubella and more at school each day. These are diseases that cause debilitating and even life-threatening illness. The overwhelming success of vaccines has made these illnesses so rare today that it’s easy to become complacent about the very real threats these diseases pose.

With billions of doses given across generations and around the world, vaccines are proven to be overwhelmingly safe. Today’s vaccines use only the ingredients they need to be as safe and effective as possible.

It’s not uncommon to have a mild reaction to a vaccine. Often it shows up as soreness around the injection site, body aches or a slight fever. This is not caused by the vaccine itself, instead it’s your body’s own defense system springing into action and learning how to fight the disease for the day you are exposed.

While extremely rare, allergic reactions to vaccines can happen. Providers will often monitor an individual after administering a vaccine to ensure your body is reacting well. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care professional who can recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

According to the state’s health guidelines, immunizations that are required for children entering kindergarten include: MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Polio (IPV), DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) Chickenpox (varicella), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (HBV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends a yearly flu vaccine for children 6 months and older.

Preteens ages 11 to 12 years old should receive Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis booster) Human Papillomavirus or HPV and Meningitis as well as a yearly flu shot.

In addition to the required immunizations, there are safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to reduce risk of coronavirus illness, complications and spread.

Every parent worries about their child and wants to keep them safe. We only need to look back a generation to see how much more there was to worry about.

Talk to your child’s doctor about what vaccines they recommend.

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