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Back-to-School Basics: Vaccinations and Backpacks

AmeriHealth District of Columbia | 8/1/2014, midnight
While you are gathering school supplies, make sure vaccinations are on your checklist.
Courtesy of nih.gov

It seems like the summer had just started, but now it’s time for back-to-school again. Students are going to need the basics: pens, pencils, glue sticks, a rubber eraser, highlighters, binders, pocket folders, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, a ruler and a backpack. But there is one last thing that sometimes gets overlooked. While you are gathering school supplies, make sure vaccinations are on your checklist. Students can always borrow a pencil from the teacher, but good health begins with vaccinations.

Students’ minds are like sponges, soaking up all the knowledge they can. They study math and science every day. Children are also like sponges when it comes to germs and sickness in the classroom. Just like your child needed vaccinations after he or she was born, he or she also needs shots before starting school. It’s dangerous for children to attend school without being vaccinated — for themselves and others. All students must be vaccinated from certain diseases before the school year starts. This can help prevent them from catching several fatal diseases. Therefore, it’s important to get all necessary shots before the first day of school. In fact, there are laws in the District of Columbia (D.C.) that require certain vaccinations for children.

You may never have heard of some of the diseases these vaccinations prevent. Some may seem to have been around only in your grandparents’ time. That’s a good thing — it means vaccinations are doing their job. They help keep diseases from spreading and growing. Before vaccinations were available, it was hard to prevent children from getting diseases, and some of them were fatal. Your child’s doctor will know which shots your child needs. Ask the doctor to explain each one. It will help you understand them. It can also make you more comfortable with the vaccinations.

AmeriHealth DC’s HealthCheck Program, provides the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) process, which helps your child get several important check-ups. If your child is an AmeriHealth DC member, he or she is a part of HealthCheck. This program starts at birth and continues until your child is 21 years old. Your child's primary care provider (PCP) will provide or help your child get HealthCheck services. If you have questions about the shots your child needs, ask his or her PCP.

Safety and health are just as important as your child’s education. Since it is the law for all students to have certain vaccinations, they may not be able to attend school without them. Vaccinations will make your child’s body resistant to specific illnesses, so he or she has fewer sick days. It’s difficult when your child is home sick from school. Schedules may need to change. School assignments are missed. No one is happy. If your child is sick, keep his or her hands clean to help keep the germs from spreading. We cannot stop all sicknesses, but vaccinations can help prevent many of them.

Along with the required shots, there are other vaccines your child can get. A common vaccination is the flu shot. The flu can spread quickly through the classroom. Children can easily pass the virus to other students. The virus can even infect children from up to 6 feet away through sneezing and coughing. Flu can cause serious problems, especially for children with asthma, sickle cell disease and other health conditions. Although the law does not require the flu shot, we encourage you to have your child vaccinated. It is the best way to help keep your child from catching the virus. A healthy child is a happier child.

Here are some other common vaccinations:

Hepatitis A and hepatitis B

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster (whooping cough)

IPV (Inactivated polio virus)

MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)

Varicella (chickenpox)

HPV (human papillomavirus)

As children grow, they need shots at different ages. Talk with your child’s PCP about the shots he or she needs to stay healthy.

You will need to make an appointment with your child’s PCP. A quick doctor’s visit for your child’s shots leaves him or her with a small bandage and the stepping stones to great health and education. Don’t let this important item miss your checklist. With vaccinations checked off, classroom environments are cleaner. Students can go to school with their backpacks stuffed with the basics and ready to take the year by storm. Children are our future, and we don’t want to let that slip away. Keep your child smart and healthy. Get your child vaccinated today!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and District of Columbia Public Schools

All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model.