School systems and childcare centers are designed to help children thrive — and it’s important that we all do our part to keep our children safe as they grow. Vaccines play a crucial role in protecting children’s health and well-being, especially within a school environment. They help prevent the spread of diseases, minimizing outbreaks of dangerous illnesses. Schools often require specific vaccines at certain ages to prevent students from sharing germs and spreading preventable diseases.
In this article, we will explore which immunizations Lynchburg’s schools require, what diseases they prevent, when your child should receive each vaccine, and how to get back on schedule if you or your child has fallen behind.
Why Do We Have an Immunization Schedule?
Vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) are illnesses that can be prevented or weakened by vaccines, also known as immunizations. Many of these diseases are caused by specific viruses or bacteria, which can cause significant and even life-threatening symptoms when they take over an otherwise healthy body.
Children carrying all kinds of germs are in close contact at school all day, so many states started requiring students to have certain immunizations to attend school in the 1960s. Many of these vaccines are initially provided to babies as part of their regular checkups before they are old enough for daycare or school.
Some diseases require more than one dose to give our bodies time to safely develop antibodies. Receiving two doses too closely together could make a child sick, or it could prevent the body from developing enough immunity to protect your child and any unvaccinated children they interact with.
The recommended immunization schedule was created to communicate the ages our immune systems are ready to learn and protect themselves against these diseases. And fortunately, when this schedule is followed, vaccines are able to work extremely well with minimal impact to a child’s life.
What Vaccines Do Children Need?
Virginia currently requires its public school students to receive immunizations for 11 VPDs to enroll in school. Many of these immunizations are for diseases that were once extremely common and dangerous, but the threat has decreased as more children undergo routine immunizations.
Many of these immunization requirements have medical exemptions, but in most cases, it’s perfectly safe for a child to receive an FDA-approved vaccine. If you have questions about how vaccines work, that’s totally normal, and your pediatrician should be able to get you all the answers you need.
Below, you’ll find a list of what vaccines are recommended for children and at what age.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis: DTaP, DTP, or Tdap
When: 4 years, 7 years, 13 years
A child must have at least one dose of DTaP or DTP immunization on or after their fourth birthday. If your child was exempt from receiving the DTaP or DTP vaccine, a DT (Diphtheria, Tetanus) vaccine might be required instead. If your child is over 7 years of age and did not receive tetanus and diphtheria immunizations, they might require an adult TD shot. A booster dose of the Tdap vaccine is required for all children entering the 7th grade.
Meningitis and Septicaemia (blood poisoning): MenACWY
When: before 7th grade, before 12th grade
Meningitis is a dangerous bacterial infection that can be spread by exposure to someone coughing. Students should receive at least two doses of this vaccine: one before 7th grade, and another before 12th grade.
Human papillomavirus & cervical cancers: HPV
When: before 7th grade, before 12th grade
Human papillomavirus is a group of more than 200 viruses spread through skin-to-skin contact. Some forms of the virus, especially HPV16 and HPV18, can cause cancer later in life. Like the MenACWY immunization, students should receive at least two doses of the HPV vaccine: one before 7th grade, and another before 12th grade.
Hepatitis A: HepA
When: first dose at one year old, second dose at least six months later
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that can infect the liver. Symptoms of hepatitis A can last up to 2 months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice. Children should receive two doses of the HepA vaccine, starting when they are at least one year old.
Hepatitis B: HepB
When: first dose at birth, second dose at 1 month, third dose at one year
Hepatitis B is another liver-infecting virus. Infants and children are more likely to develop a long-lasting hepatitis B infection that can cause lifelong damage to their organs. Most babies receive their first hepatitis B immunization at birth and will receive additional doses at their 1-month and 1-year checkups.
Polio: IPV (inactivated poliovirus)
When: 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 through 18 months old, and 4 through 6 years old
Polio was once a common infectious disease that was spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. This disease affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis. Children need four doses of the polio vaccine throughout their childhood: 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 through 18 months old, and 4 through 6 years old.
Measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox: MMR or MMRV
When: first dose at 1 year old, second dose before kindergarten
Measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox are all highly infectious diseases that can cause similar symptoms, including fever, sore throat, rashes, fatigue, aches and pains, and more. The MMR vaccine does not include immunization against Varicella, or chickenpox. The minimum interval between these immunizations differs depending on which vaccine your child receives, but children should generally receive two doses after they turn one year old and before they start kindergarten.
What To Do if You’re Behind on Vaccines
If you or your child are behind on the immunization schedule, don’t worry. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have developed a catch-up vaccination schedule that explains the absolute minimum intervals between doses in each vaccine series that can keep people safe without adverse effects.
While Virginia does have a statewide vaccine requirement policy in place, school boards can develop additional policies and exemptions for their students. If you’re concerned about meeting your child’s vaccine requirements before school starts, locate their school’s vaccine requirements policy and talk to your healthcare provider to work out a plan to get them caught up.
Most public school systems have information about their immunization requirements posted on their website. Below are a few local school systems’ linked immunization policies:
- Virginia & Lynchburg City Schools
- Bedford County Public Schools
- Campbell County Public Schools
- Amherst County Public Schools
- Appomattox County Public Schools
Community Access Network Is Here to Help
Whether your child is on-schedule or a little behind, Community Access Network is here to get them healthy and ready for school! Our care teams are ready and waiting at our 5th Street location, where we accept walk-in appointments.
If you’d like to make an appointment for your child’s back-to-school physical, give us a call at (434) 818-7880.