The vaccinations required for your child to attend school will vary depending on which state you live in. Because each state makes its own requirements, there’s no universal set of requirements that applies across the U.S. However, each state generally abides by the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) for required back-to-school vaccines.
According to Edith Dietz, M.D., a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, school mandates offer “one way of ensuring that kids who are going to be in a classroom […] have that basic protection.”
“No vaccine is ever going to offer 100% protection, but for the most part, vaccines at a minimum reduce the severity of illness and quite often they completely prevent it,” says Dr. Dietz.
The CDC recommends the following vaccines for children throughout their school years, though a child’s age will determine which vaccines and how many doses of each they’re required to have at a given time. One important note: Although the CDC does recommend an annual flu shot for children starting at the age of 6 months, most states do not require this vaccine for school attendance.
By age 4 to 6 years old, a child has typically received a varicella vaccine, which protects against chickenpox. Two doses of this vaccine are recommended. The first dose is generally given between 12 and 15 months, and the second dose is typically given when a child is between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.
DTaP and Tdap
Both the DTaP and the Tdap vaccines protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). The key difference between the two vaccinations is at what age a child generally receives them.
Children under the age of 7 will receive DTaP, with shots given at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months, respectively, and then booster shots given at 15 through 18 months and then again at 4 to 6 years old—around when your child may be entering kindergarten.
Meanwhile, it’s recommended that children between the ages of 11 and 12 years get a shot of Tdap in order to boost their immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Additionally, children over the age of 17 who have not had a Tdap for over five years, may benefit from a booster vaccination, especially as they go off to college or gain employment.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
The MMR vaccine offers protection against measles, mumps and rubella. This vaccine is a two-dose series, with the first dose recommended at 12 to 15 months and the second between the ages of 4 and 6 years old.
The poliovirus vaccine, also referred to as the IPV vaccine, provides protection against polio. Given in four doses starting at 2 months old, the final dose is recommended at age 4 or after. The final dose must be given at least six months after the previous dose.
Hepatitis A and B
While your child will have likely received both hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines by the time they reach school age, they may need catch-up doses if they’ve missed any prior doses, as many states require these vaccines for school. Many older children over the age of 16 could have missed out on receiving the vaccine as a young child and it is important to vaccinate them if they didn’t receive it. It is also important to know that individuals over the age of 19 will receive an adult version of the hepatitis A vaccine.
The hepatitis B vaccine, which protects against the synonymous virus, is generally given in three doses starting at birth, with the final dose administered once the child is at least 24 weeks old. The vaccination protecting against hepatitis A is a two-dose series that’s given between the ages of 12 and 23 months, at six-month intervals.
Both vaccines offer a number of options for catch-up vaccinations at various ages.
The HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus, and the CDC recommends it for children as young as 9 years old, though it’s more routinely recommended at 11 to 12 years old. This is either a two- or three-dose vaccine depending on whether your child starts the series before or after they turn 15 years old. Data has demonstrated that if the vaccine is given before 15 years of age, the immune response is more effective and more durable or more lasting in nature which is why only two doses are needed in this age group.
There are two types of meningococcal vaccine that your child may receive: meningococcal serogroup A, C, W, Y vaccination (MenACWY) and meningococcal serogroup B vaccination (MenB). Both protect against meningococcal disease.
MenACWY is a two-dose series. The first dose is recommended between the ages of 11 and 12, while the second dose is suggested at 16 years. It can be given as young as 7 to 8 years if a child has certain medical conditions that put them at increased risk. The second MenACWY vaccine is given over the age of 16 and commonly required by the 12th grade.
Meanwhile, administration of the MenB vaccine depends on whether or not a child is at an increased risk due to a medical condition. If so, it is suggested to be administered at age 10. Many colleges are now requiring the two-dose administration, given six months apart.
Some colleges and employers are now requiring students and young adults to have the two initial vaccinations as well as at least one booster dose. Make sure that you check the requirements of your child’s school or employer so that there is ample time to receive the necessary vaccinations.