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Make Sure Kids Get Required Vaccinations Before School Starts

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

As the first day of school approaches, the Health Department is reminding parents to get their kids the required vaccinations. City public schools open on September 2 this year, leaving only three more weeks to get your child to the doctor. Vaccines can prevent many serious illnesses, such as diphtheria, measles, and whooping cough. Children who do not meet the City’s immunization requirements can be excluded from daycare, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools.

Vaccination is the surest way to protect your child from contagious diseases that still cause outbreaks. This year alone, New York City experienced two dozen cases of measles – two-thirds of them among children.

New Vaccination Requirements for 2008-2009 School Year

Vaccines work best when they are given at certain ages. New York State law requires that children be immunized if they attend a childcare facility and when they enter school. School vaccine requirements are structured to ensure that children get vaccinated at the best times. See new requirements below:

* The vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) is now required for students entering either 6th or 7th grade if they are at least 11 years old. The 7th grade requirement is new this year.

* The chicken pox (varicella) vaccine is now required for all children from pre-K through 9th grade. (Fifth graders were still exempt last year, after 4th and 8th graders were added to the required list.) Two doses are recommended.

“To avoid any hold ups on the first day of school, parents should make sure their kids have their vaccinations,” said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of Immunization. “These shots are required for good reason: they protect your child from serious diseases. If you have questions about where to get free or low-cost shots, call 311.”

All children entering school must also show proof that they received a complete medical evaluation. For a full list of required immunizations, see the nyc.gov/health (under “School Health”) or call 311.

Vaccines to Protect People of All Ages

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Vaccines are not just for kids. All New Yorkers should mark National Immunization Awareness Month by checking their immunization status in August. Here are some of the vaccines recommended for people of various ages:

* Rotavirus vaccine to protect infants against a severe type of diarrhea

* HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to protect girls and women (ages 9-26 only) from the virus that can cause cervical cancer

* Hepatitis A vaccine to protect children against this food-borne infection.

* Meningococcal vaccine, to prevent meningitis, for adolescents

* Zoster vaccine to help adults 60 and over prevent shingles

* Tetanus vaccine boosters are due every 10 years to maintain immunity. If you have not had a tetanus booster already, you should get a Tdap (which prevents pertussis as well) when your next booster is due. This is especially important for adults who have contact with young children.

* Children born on or after January 1, 2008 now have a pneumococcal vaccine to attend daycare if they are at least 9 months old.

As always, an annual flu shot is recommended for groups at high risk including people over 50, children between 6 months and 18 years of age, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and all health care workers.

Vaccines against other infections, such as hepatitis (A and B) and pneumococcal infection, may be needed depending on your job, medical condition or age. And before you travel abroad, remember that you may need certain vaccines before you take off.