Anne Markaity

Written by:  Anne Markaity, RN, BSN

Anne works as an RN at the GVSU Family Health Center

With the month of August here, we are surrounded by “Back to School” ads with specials and sales.  But one of the most important back to school things to take care of won’t come from a local store; it’s making sure you and your family are protected from disease by keeping up to date with your vaccines.

All 50 states and Washington DC require all or some of the recommended childhood vaccines prior to beginning preschool, kindergarten and 7th grade.  The 2016-2017 requirements for Michigan require your child to show proof of vaccines for Hepatitis B, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Polio, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and Varicella (chicken pox) before kindergarten.  In addition, at age 11 or when starting seventh grade, a Tdap, which is the adult dose of the DTaP, and a meningitis vaccine are required. 

It is easy to think of these diseases as things of the past or something found in underdeveloped countries. The reality is that local outbreaks and individual cases continue to be reported.  An unprotected child exposed to measles or chicken pox may be required to stay home from school or day care for up to 21 days to be sure they do not have the disease.  Infants cannot receive the vaccines until 12 months of age, leaving them at risk if an older sibling, cousin or participant in day care has the disease.

Your teens need protection from disease too.  Meningitis can be a devastating disease and is more common in adolescents and young adults. Close quarters such as college dorms, sports teams, large parties and the sharing of utensils or cups (and kissing) can spread the disease quickly in a closed population. While 1 dose of the vaccine is required for school, a second dose 4 to 5 years after the first will help protect your child during the ages they are at greatest risk.

Not required for school, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is given as a 3 shot series over 6 months to adolescents.  This vaccine can prevent infection from several of the high risk varieties of the HPV virus.  The HPV virus is linked as a cause of several types of cancer in both males and females.  For the vaccine to be most effective in prevention it can be given as early as age 9, but definitely years before your child becomes sexually active.

Adults aren’t off the hook either.  Adults who will be in contact with infants need to be vaccinated with a dose of Tdap to protect both themselves and the child from pertussis (whooping cough).  The tetanus vaccine is recommended every 10 years or sooner if an injury putting you at risk occurs.  Yearly flu shots are recommended for all ages 6 months and older.  Older adults need to consider the vaccines for shingles and pneumonia to ensure they remain healthy and keep up their active life-style.

Check with your healthcare provider to be sure your child is up to date and ready to start school as happy and healthy as possible.

If you or someone you know needs a healthcare provider, please call the GVSU Family Health Center at 616-988-8774. We are located at 72 Sheldon Blvd. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.