August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is meant to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages, but is especially relevant to students as they head back to school.
“Vaccines are a requirement for school entry and help protect the health of children and that of their classmates and their community,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Hiram Polk said in a news release. “When children are not vaccinated, they could be at risk of disease and can possibly spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community.”
Kentucky requires every student to be current on their immunizations as they enter kindergarten and sixth grade.
Children entering kindergarten are required to have the combined TDAP vaccine for for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; a measles-mumps-ruebella vaccine; and vaccines for hepatitis B, polio and chicken pox.
Students entering sixth grade are required to have all of the immunizations that were required to enter kindergarten, as well as a TDAP booster, a meningitis vaccine, and a second chicken-pox vaccine.
The HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus, is recommended for 11- and 12-year old boys and girls, but is not required. HPV infections cause more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers and 70 percent of vaginal, vulvar, penile and middle throat cancers, and two of the HPV strains are associated with more than 90 percent of anal and genital warts.
Flu vaccine is also recommended for school-aged children every year as soon as it is available, but is not required. This vaccine is especially important for those with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds parents that it is never too late to catch up on their child’s missed immunizations, and that primary care providers can help set up an adjusted immunization schedule.
“Making sure your children stay up to date with vaccinations is the best way to help protect your communities and schools from outbreaks that can cause unnecessary illnesses and deaths,” CDC says. “Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides children with the best protection possible.”