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Back-to-school season is a time for new school supplies, backpacks, activities and friendships. It’s also a time for parents to make sure their children are up to date on all vaccinations.
Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to disease. Children are most vulnerable when they are born, so it’s important to follow the vaccination schedule provided by your child’s pediatrician. Although babies are typically born with strong immune systems and receive some temporary protection through the transmission of antibodies from their mothers, they still need help fighting bacteria, germs and viruses.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) requires that children attending transitional kindergarten through 12th grade be vaccinated against nine diseases before starting school. These include diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox). Students starting 7th grade also need a booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine.
Schools, pre-kindergarten facilities and licensed childcare centers are required to enforce immunization requirements, maintain current records and submit status reports to the CDPH. Before the first day of school, parents must submit their child's complete immunization records.
“Parents want to make the best possible decisions for their children, and staying informed is an important first step,” said Dr. Anastasia Williams, a pediatrician at San Fernando Community Health Center (SFCHC). “Every day, children can be exposed to hundreds of viruses and bacteria during normal activities at school, like eating or playing. Vaccines safely trigger a body’s natural immune response, but do not cause the disease.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends annual flu and COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone ages six months and older. Children with chronic health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are at greater risk of developing serious flu or COVID-19 complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Scheduling annual shots is the most effective way to keep them protected.
“For more than 50 years, flu vaccines have proven safe and effective for millions of people of all ages, including children,” said Dr. Williams. “Children may experience some common side effects, such as soreness, headache or fever. However, these symptoms are typically mild and only mean the vaccine is working. At San Fernando Community Health Center, we are here to help parents keep their children and their families healthy. Vaccines can save lives.”
Research shows that since vaccines were invented, the number of people who become seriously ill or die from vaccine-preventable diseases has dramatically decreased. In addition, many infectious diseases have been eliminated entirely – including diphtheria, smallpox and rubella. Unfortunately, low vaccination rates have allowed measles and other diseases to reappear in the U.S., which is a serious public health concern.
Before a vaccine is recommended for use, the U.S Food and Drug Administration ensures it’s safe and effective. The CDC also closely and constantly monitors the safety of all vaccines. Skipping or delaying shots leaves your child at risk of catching serious diseases at younger ages, when these diseases are most dangerous. That’s why it’s important to follow an immunization schedule that is recommended by your provider and based on independent medical science review.
Today, it’s more important than ever to keep track of your children’s immunization timeline to protect them during every stage of their lives. For more information from the CDPH about school immunization requirements and vaccine safety, please click here.