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Update: Back-to-School Vaccines

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

With only a few days or weeks to go (for some) before school resumes, it’s important to know that August happens to be National Immunization Month.  For every age child that might be getting ready for school there are immunizations that are necessary as wells as for any child who has missed or lapsed immunizations, now is a  good time to update and “catch-up”.

Children entering kindergarten (ages 4-6) will need to have had  booster doses of  DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), an IPV (inactivated polio), MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) and Varivax (chickenpox) vaccines.

It has also been recommended that children over the age of 1 year (who have completed their 4 dose Prevnar series with Prenvar 7) and who are under the age of 6, receive a booster dose of the newer Prevnar 13 . (see previous blog from Spring 2010). Most children who were affected by this recommendation should have had this in the past 15 months.

For those children between the ages of 11-12 years there are also booster doses (for older children and adults too) of the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine (TdaP) as well as the meningococcal vaccine.  These shots are typically given before entering 7th grade.

If your child is over the age of 11 years and has not yet received the meningococcal vaccine I would go ahead and get it, even if they are still in later elementary school and it may not be “required”.  (The names of the vaccine are Menactra or Menveo). This vaccine prevents a devastating form of meningitis and bacterial blood infection that often leads to a rather rapid death in the adolescent and young adult age group.

There is also a recent recommendation that all adolescents who received their meningococcal vaccine before the age of 16 years, get a booster dose. This is especially important for those kids heading off to college as this is the first year that the booster dose has been routinely recommended.   This is due to the fact that meningococcal meningitis has a higher attack rate for adolescents and young adults, especially those living in close living quarters, such as a dormitory.

Once you get the vaccine it takes awhile for your body to develop antibodies and therefore immunity, so college students who get vaccinated once arriving at school, will also have to wait 10 days before they are allowed to move into their dorm.  If you son or daughter is heading to college in the next several weeks, go get the vaccine now, so that you will have a 10 day window to show proof of vaccination.

With outbreaks of pertussis throughout the United States, this is a good time to reiterate that all adults should have a tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria vaccine too!! This means that you want to make sure you adults have gotten the vaccine containing acellular pertussis, which prevents the adult population from spreading whooping cough to infants who have not yet been immunized or who are just getting their own 3 dose series. The more we vaccinate the adult population the better chance we have of stopping the spread of whooping cough.

Even adults need to continue getting vaccinated and the TdaP vaccine is recommended for adults, even those over the age of 65 who are in contact with young children. Grandparents pull up your sleeves and protect those precious grand babies!

What can you expect from me over the next few weeks? Updates about flu vaccine once again. How time flies!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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2 Responses to “Update: Back-to-School Vaccines”

  1. Lynn says:

    Thank you for talking about meningococcal meningitis. I lost my 20 year old son to this disease, not knowing that it was potentially vaccine-preventable. Parents — please make sure that your children are protected. This disease is deadly and is very difficult to diagnose. No parent should lose a child to a potentially vaccine-preventable disease. Please visit the National Meningitis Association Web site for more information. My son fought for 26 days, had both arms and legs amputated, and it still wasn’t enough to save his life. He was happy, healthy, loved so much, and is now gone. Don’t let this happen to your child.

  2. Virginia Marso says:

    My story is similar to Lynn’s although my then 22 year old son survived, albeit with amputations of all his fingers and half of each foot plus skin damage equivalent to third degree burns over a third of his body. He spent 4 1/2 months in the hospital and rehabbed for another year. So, while this is a rare disease, it can kill an otherwise healthy young person within 24 hours and those who don’t die very often suffer severe and life-changing sequelae as my son did. Parents can prevent 85% of these cases by seeing that their youngsters are vaccinated. PLEASE make the effort!

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