Vaccines are a very important tool to keep our children and community protected against many diseases. These diseases, such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and varicella (chickenpox) used to be much more common before we had vaccines. Although many of us with children now have never seen these and other vaccine-preventable diseases, our parents and grandparents remember outbreaks of these diseases, many of which began in their schools. Dr. Sandy Arnold, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Le Bonheur Children’s, shares helpful information on this topic.

School vaccination requirements exist because the school environment is one in which infectious diseases spread easily. The vaccines that are required for school at certain ages are those that prevent diseases where outbreaks may occur in the school setting. For example, measles and varicella are spread through the air. A single child with one of these infections has the potential to infect an entire classroom. While, for the most part, these previously common childhood illnesses are a benign part of being a kid, some children will become seriously ill, require hospitalization and possibly suffer permanent problems.

Each state determines which vaccines are required for school entry at certain ages. In Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas, children entering kindergarten are required to have received the following vaccines:

  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis – this is a combined vaccine that is given in infancy with a booster dose before starting school (five doses prior to school)
  • Hepatitis B (HBV) – usually given in infancy but can be given at any two doses, one after the first birthday and one before starting school
  • Poliomyelitis (IPV or OPV) – given in infancy and prior to starting school. A dose on or after the fourth birthday now required.
  • Varicella (chicken pox) – two doses required given at the same time as MMR vaccine. A history of chicken pox infection is also adequate for school entry.
  • Hepatitis A –total of two doses, spaced at least six months apart. Most children will have received this after the first birthday.

For children entering the seventh grade, the following vaccines are required:

  • Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster (“Tdap”) – this is a booster shot that is given at 11-12 years of age. If your child has received a tetanus booster in the five years prior, this is adequate for this requirement
  • Verification of immunity to varicella – two doses or history of disease. This is being checked as some older children may not have received a second dose of this vaccine (as the second dose became required in 2010).

There are other vaccines recommended for this age group but are not required for school. Your doctor can discuss these with you at your child’s check-up. In addition, it is recommended that every child older than the age of 6 months receive a flu shot every year before flu season.

Help protect your children, yourself and your community.

For information on vaccine requirements for school in your state, try one of these websites:

  • Tennessee - https://health.state.tn.us/ceds/required.htm
  • Mississippi - http://www.msdh.state.ms.us/msdhsite/_static/14,0,71.html
  • Arkansas - http://www.nvic.org/Vaccine-Laws/state-vaccine-requirements/arkansas.aspx

For general information about vaccines visit:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ or http://www.immunize.org/