Editor's note: SOTs of Dr. Jennifer Squires speaking to this topic are available for media. Download 720p version here. Download the SD version here. Download accompanying b-roll here.
If you have a child going back to school this month, you’ll want to make sure they are up-to-date on any immunizations their school requires.
Vaccines are given to children to help prevent diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, chicken pox, polio and measles, but also pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea – two of the biggest killers in children younger than 5. For adolescents and adults, vaccines are available to prevent influenza and meningitis, as well as cervical and liver cancer.
Dr. Jennifer Squires of Novant Health Elizabeth Pediatrics in Charlotte, North Carolina, shed light on what vaccines are required or recommended for those in school:
- Kindergarten – tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (DTaP), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) and chickenpox vaccines are required; Hepatitis B vaccine is required, but usually given to infants at 2, 4 and 6 months.
- Middle school – Tdap booster is required; Human papillomavirus vaccine and meningitis vaccine are recommended.
- High school – meningitis vaccine booster is recommended for those ages 16 to 18.
- College – meningitis vaccine is required if not already received.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe vaccines as containing “the same germs that cause the disease, but the germs have been either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick.” Vaccines help the immune system build up resistance to dangerous diseases.
‘Herd immunity’ helps all
“You want to protect your children with vaccines, but there are some children who can’t receive vaccines for a medical reason or because they are too young,” Squires said. “By everyone else getting vaccines, the ones who can’t receive them are also protected.”
Children who aren’t protected by vaccines have to rely on “herd immunity.” The CDC describes herd immunity as “even if one child gets sick, the disease will probably not spread because it has nowhere to go. If the sick child comes in contact only with children who are immune, the disease will die out.”
Health assessment requirement changes in North Carolina
Beginning this year, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services now requires a health assessment for all children entering public school for the first time. The assessment conveys any known health concerns or issues a child may have. New students must complete the health assessment within the first 30 days of school.