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A Healthy Start Back To School Means Up-To-Date Vaccinations

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
young boy wearing backpack and mask

Whether your child is starting junior high or heading off to college, back-to-school is a time for your child to start fresh. That includes making sure your children are up-to-date on immunizations. And this year, that may mean a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Most immunizations, or vaccines, expose your immune system to killed or weakened versions of harmful germs,” says Marcus Baratian, MD, a pediatrician with UH Rainbow Healthy Kids Pediatrics in Streetsboro. “That way, your body’s natural defenses build up protection before you are infected with disease-causing bacteria or viruses.”

U.S. health officials recommend a series of immunizations that begin in infancy and includes booster shots for school-age children. But older adolescents, such as preteens, teens and college students still need immunizations, too.

Before the start of the school year, Dr. Baratian suggests taking a look at this list of recommended immunizations and checking with your older child’s doctor to make sure he or she is on schedule.

Preteens and teens (ages 7 to 18)

Serious, life-threatening diseases that affect babies can also strike older children.

“In some cases, the protection from infant vaccines has worn off by the preteen years,” Dr. Baratian says. “And school-age kids are at higher risk for conditions such as meningitis and HPV.”

These vaccines are recommended for your preteens and teens:

  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis): For ages 11 to 18 (preferably ages 11 to 12) for children who have had all their tdap shots; 7 to 10 years old for children who have not
  • HPV: For children ages 11 or 12 years old, given in a series of two doses six to 12 months apart. Children who start the HPV vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three doses, given over six months.
  • Meningococcal: One dose at 11 to 12 years old, with a booster at age 16.
  • Flu: Yearly

Dr. Baratian says, “These are also prime years to catch up on any missed childhood vaccines. Talk with your child’s pediatrician to ensure your child is up-to-date.”

Young adults (ages 19 to 24)

Leaving home, starting college, beginning a new life – there are lots of beginnings during young adulthood. “Some of these transitions increase the risk for certain illnesses,” says Dr. Baratian. Doctors recommend that young adults get:

  • One dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to protect against meningitis for students living in dorms or other group situations
  • Tdap vaccine, varicella, HPV and MMR, if they do not have evidence of getting these shots in childhood
  • A yearly flu shot

Vaccination Against COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone age 12 and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19.

Vaccinating children and teens against COVID-19 helps provide immunity for youngsters while helping to stem the spread of the virus and curb mutations that lead to new, more severe virus variants such as the Delta variant.

Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19. They might require hospitalization, intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe. In rare cases, they might die.

“The more protective measures we take, the better we are at decreasing the risk of spreading COVID-19,” Dr. Baratian says.

Related Links

Find out about the authorized COVID-19 vaccines, how they work, possible side effects and the benefits of having your children vaccinated – from the pediatric healthcare experts at UH Rainbow.

The HPV Vaccine prevents about 30 percent of cancers in adults. Watch as John Letterio, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospitals explains how this vaccine is a form of immunotherapy and will allow us to eradicate many HPV-related cancers in our lifetime.