Vaccines Required to Attend School, Child Care

It’s the middle of summer and most students are definitely not thinking about school.

The same might be true for some parents.

However, when you get ready to go shopping for backpacks and notebooks, and prepare your kids to go back to school, make sure you don’t leave this important item off your list: vaccines.

California law requires children to receive certain immunizations in order to attend child care and school (public and private, kindergarten through 12th grade).

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

“Infectious disease outbreaks can occur more often in schools and child care settings because students interact so closely and may be less likely to wash their hands and cover their coughs,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy 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 and in homes.”

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 (CDC) also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

“The vaccinations that are recommended by CDC are just as important as those that are required for school entry,” McDonald added.

RELATED: More Local Parents Choosing Not to Vaccinate Their Children

Parents can obtain the vaccines through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center for little or no cost. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.

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