Back to School Essentials

September is a busy time for parents of school-age children, ensuring they have all necessary items for a successful school year. As students head back to class, they will be in close proximity with their peers, exposing them to new ailments and infections.

Along with the school supplies, it's a good idea to send your child back to school with vaccine protection against common infectious diseases. This tip sheet will provide essential information to assist parents in ensuring that their children are up-to-date with their vaccinations.

Why vaccinate?

Children are exposed to infectious diseases while at school. Those who are not vaccinated are at risk for infection and may spread the infection to others. Vaccination will protect against many bacterial and viral infections and should be part of a normal health routine. They are safe and effective, using a weakened or killed virus to trigger the body to produce an immune response that will provide protection should it be exposed to the virus in the future.

The regular immunization schedule contains many different vaccines, and keeping track of the recommended vaccination schedule may seem overwhelming. Previously, doctors and nurses were required to report vaccine administration to public health. As of June 2018, the government now requires parents to be responsible for informing the local medical officer of health of vaccine administration.

What’s required?

In school-aged children and adolescents, there are three main ages when vaccines are given.

·       Between four and six years of age, children should receive these vaccines:

o   tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio

o   measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox

Parents can discuss these vaccines at routine visits with their family physician when children are entering the school system for the first time.

·       In grade 7, children should receive these vaccines:

o   meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-ACYW)

o   hepatitis b

o   human papillomavirus (HPV)

These vaccines are administered in school by public health and parents will be notified prior to the vaccination. Boys and girls who miss any doses of HPV are allowed catch-up doses at the local public health unit, free of charge until grade 12.

·       Between 14 and 16 years of age, adolescents should receive these vaccines:

o   tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis

Parents can discuss this vaccine with the family physician at a routine check-up when children are entering high school. The tetanus and diphtheria booster vaccine should be carried through adulthood with a dose administered every 10 years. Adults will occasionally require additional vaccines. Making vaccination part of the regular health routine for children will build a healthy foundation for the future.

Remember, for school age children and adolescents, make an appointment to discuss vaccine requirements with your doctor at the beginning of elementary school and high school, and watch for vaccine information to come home with your child in grade 7.

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