The Most Important Immunizations to Prepare Kids for School

by Pacific Medical Centers’ Dr. Eusebio

Believe it or not, vaccinations have their own month. Every August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance created by the Centers for Disease Control to heighten the public’s knowledge of the role immunizations play in preventing disease.

As children get ready to go back to school, it’s important to know what vaccines are appropriate. “It all depends on what’s required based on the age of the child,” says Dr. Emmanuel Eusebio, a pediatrician at PacMed. Laws regarding vaccinations vary from state to state; in Washington, parents must provide a Certificate of Immunization Status (CIS) or a Certificate of Exemption (COE) in order for their children to attend school.

Some of the more important vaccinations occur just before kindergarten. “That’s the first major exposure to school for a lot of kids,” Eusebio explains, “and there are a number of shots they need to get before they register.” Those include DTaP, a vaccine that helps children under seven develop immunity to diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

“Pertussis is an easily communicable disease that spreads from coughing,” says Eusebio. “We saw a fairly large bump in the King County area last year. The younger the child, the more dangerous the exposure is. It can be really scary in an infant.”

At the same age, children will get a measles/mumps/rubella (or MMR) shot and a shot for chicken pox (also called varicella). “Measles is very contagious and has been seen in this area,” says Eusebio. “It’s spread through the respiratory system.”

Chicken pox is also common and quite contagious. “Most pediatricians will see it a few times a year, and it can put a child out of school for a while if it’s not prevented. Because it has a long incubation period, you have to worry about it for 7 to 21 days if your child was exposed.”

Another common vaccination for younger children is IPV, which is formulated to ward off polio. “You don’t see this disease commonly, but the polio vaccination is still an important one to maintain,” says Eusebio.

Eusebio says that for older children, another set of boosters happens around age 11 or 12, including a tetanus booster and Menactra, which prevents one of the bacterial versions of spinal meningitis. “Menactra is probably the newest change, the one most recently added to the recommended immunization schedule,” Eusebio notes.

In addition to specific shots, he recommends routine influenza vaccinations for anyone in a school setting. “They’re pertinent from kindergarten through high school. It’s hard to predict how severe any given year of influenza is going to be on the community. It’s no fun to be down and out for four or five days,” he says. “It’s smarter to get a vaccine for every year they’re in school, if possible.”

Make good use of the summer months by getting in to see your family doctor early. “Things get crowded before school starts with sports physicals. If you come in summer,” recommends Eusebio, “it gives us enough time to make sure that all your questions and issues are addressed. Otherwise, things can get pretty hectic if people wait until the last minute to take care of required medical issues.”

To learn more about the PacMed Northgate clinic where Dr. Eusebio takes care of pediatric patients, call (206) 517-6700 or visit www.PacMed.org/Northgate.

Emmanuel J. Eusebio, MD

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