August is National Immunization Awareness Month
It’s back-to-school time, and state health officials are encouraging parents to make immunization appointments for their children before the school year starts.
“A healthy school year begins with children who are up-to-date on their immunizations,” said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. “Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. They not only protect vaccinated kids, but they also help protect entire communities, including our elderly neighbors and relatives — who can be more vulnerable — by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”
Families with health insurance will need to schedule these appointments with their health care provider. State-supplied vaccines are available at local health departments through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program for families whose children are not covered by insurance, are on Medical Assistance or are American Indian or Alaska Native. Parents should contact their insurance company if they are uncertain whether their insurance covers vaccinations.
State requirements and recommendations apply to children in kindergarten through high school, and vary by grade. For students in kindergarten through grade 5 (elementary school), required vaccines include:
• DTaP/DT/Td, to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
• Polio vaccine.
• Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR).
• Hepatitis B vaccine.
• Varicella vaccine, to prevent chickenpox.
For middle and high school students, an additional dose of varicella vaccine and a dose of Tdap vaccine are required.
Tdap vaccine protects adolescents and adults against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Wisconsin teen vaccination rates for the varicella and Tdap vaccines are well above the national average, according to a recent National Immunization Survey. Also recommended for adolescents are the HPV vaccine, to help prevent various cancers, and the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to prevent meningitis.
Vaccinations recommended for college students include Tdap, meningococcal conjugate and HPV vaccines. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is particularly important for students who live in dormitories.
To help parents and caregivers understand which vaccines are required or recommended for their children, go to http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p4/P44021.pdf
To keep track of vaccines children have already received, visit the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR): http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/immunization/publicaccess.htm. Health care providers can help show families how to access their child’s immunization records through the WIR.