Students Need Backpacks… and Vaccines

It’s that time of the year again.

Thousands of students will be heading back to school in a few weeks (some are back already!) and parents should make sure that, in addition to having backpacks and notebooks, their kids are fully vaccinated.

Currently, in order to attend school, California law requires children to receive certain immunizations. This requirement is for students who attend private and public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the County Health and Human Services Agency is once again reminding parents to check their children’s immunization records and schedule doctor visits soon to avoid the last-minute rush for appointments for vaccines.

“Vaccines are the most effective tools there are to prevent children from getting sick,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “When children are not vaccinated, not only are they at increased risk for disease, they can also spread illness to others in classrooms, households and communities.”

Children who are 4 to 6 years of age are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis—whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Older children, like preteens and teens, need a Tdap booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease. Lastly, a yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

To make sure your children have all the vaccines they need, check with their regular medical provider. As an adult, you may be missing one or more important immunizations so ask your doctor what vaccines are recommended for you as well. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a community health clinic or a county public health center for little or no cost. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.

On July 1, 2016, a new law goes into effect that will eliminate personal belief exemptions and will require that all students show proof of having received all the required vaccines before they are allowed in school. Senate Bill 277 exempts students who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons.

For more information about the required back-to-school vaccines, call the Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact