Immunization Requirements for High School: A Complete Guide

With high school starting again soon, it’s time to ensure your teens have all the immunization requirements to enroll and start classes. Are your kids due for a booster shot of a required vaccination, and should you get any of the optional vaccinations for the upcoming cold and flu seasons?

Learn more in the paragraphs below about essential vaccines for your teens before returning to school this fall and whether your child qualifies for an exemption.

Essential Vaccinations for Teens Going to School

doctor with syringe and vial for polio ipv vaccine

Students spend most of their week with other children, teachers, and staff in confined spaces. Children of all ages regularly engage in risky behaviors as part of their learning experience and socialization, even with the strict health standards we’ve all grown accustomed to in a COVID-affected world.

Most children receive many of their key vaccinations by age six, including:

Your child must have had one or two doses of the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine or a record of having had chicken pox.

Between ages 7-17, students should have:

  • Four doses of DTaP, DTP, DT, Tdap, or TD (three doses if the last dose given after second birthday)
  • Four doses of the polio vaccine, IPV or OPV (three doses if the last dose given after second birthday)
  • One or two doses of the MMR vaccine before the first birthday, or two MMR vaccines required at transfer to public or private school at any grade level
  • One or two doses of the varicella vaccine, as mandated by your state
  • Tdap booster shot at the recommended grade level or for out-of-state transfer

Do Public and Private Schools Have Different Vaccine Requirements?

Many parents may wonder whether public school vaccination mandates are the same for private schools. Private schools must adhere to state vaccine mandates the same as public schools. However, the administrations at private schools are usually more likely to accept allowable exemptions for student vaccinations.

All states and D.C. allow medical exemptions for vaccinations, such as when a vaccine contains eggs or another allergen and your child is allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the vaccine. Additionally, most states allow exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons.

States that only allow for medical exemptions include:

  • California
  • Mississippi
  • New York
  • West Virginia

The Importance of Vaccinations in Schools

doctor vaccinating teenage high school student in clinic

Many states follow the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to guide them on immunization requirements for high school students. However, there are several vaccines available to school-aged students beyond most state mandates that the ACIP recommends.

The ACIP vaccine schedule of recommended vaccines, often not required by schools, includes:

Preventing the contraction and spread of diseases that can permanently affect the developing systems of your child and their classmates is crucial to ensuring a healthy populace. Failing to vaccinate against preventable diseases can lead to your high school-aged child bringing home a disease that can affect you, your child’s siblings, and older relatives if you live in a mixed-generation household.

While your patient zero child may recover in a few days, will your younger children fare as well? What if a younger child spreads the virus to their classmates during the incubation period? Can your aging parents fight off the infection, or do they have preexisting conditions that put them at heightened risk?

Vaccinating your children protects the entire community from most bacterial and viral outbreaks if your children are healthy enough to receive a vaccine. However, not every child can receive all the recommended vaccines. If your children can’t get their vaccinations, other parents responsible for vaccinating their children can help protect them through herd immunity.

Creating a Safe Learning Environment

Vaccines have been in the news more than ever in the last few decades. However, the COVID-19 vaccine has been on everyone’s mind since the pandemic began in 2020. Are COVID vaccines required for school?

The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) reports that Washington, D.C., is currently the only place in the U.S. that requires the COVID-19 vaccine for students, effective beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. As many as 21 states have banned schools from enacting or enforcing COVID vaccine mandates, while the other 29 states have not banned mandates but have no existing mandates.

Washington, D.C., and Oregon have faculty COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place. Additionally, only 14 states have banned school faculty mandates, with 35 states having neither banned nor enacted a school faculty or staff COVID vaccine mandate.

But are vaccines safe for your children, and do they really work to prevent infections from common childhood diseases? According to one study, childhood vaccines have reduced the infant mortality rate to just 29 per 1,000 live births in 2018, down from 65 in 1990. The study goes on to describe the economic, equity, and global health benefits of vaccines in preventing poverty and morbidity due to preventable infections.

The eradication of diseases through mass vaccination of the general population has led to complacency among adults who have never experienced the devastation of diseases like polio, mumps, and measles. Resurgences of these diseases are becoming more common as more parents seek exemptions for their children from receiving these vaccines, despite the exemption being medically unnecessary.

The Role of Parents in Ensuring Vaccination

Most of the time, your children will get their vaccinations during appointments with their pediatrician or family physician. However, you might accidentally double-book a work meeting or other appointment for that day. Be sure to inquire about any vaccines your child was supposed to receive during their appointment so you can reschedule as soon as possible.

You can also ask your child’s physician to call in the vaccine at your local pharmacy to get their shot while you pick up any other prescriptions or grab a few snacks for movie night. Stores like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and other pharmacy chains will often be able to give any necessary vaccines in just a few minutes.

Guidelines for School Administrators Regarding Health Measures

School administrators should know what vaccines are required in their state and what potential exemptions are allowed. For example, every state allows exemptions for medical reasons, while others also allow exemptions for religious or personal beliefs. An administrator in New Jersey might have to consider either a medical or religious exemption, while an administrator in New York would only need to consider a medical exemption.

If you’re a school administrator responsible for student enrollment and vaccination compliance, verify your available resources for enforcement through your school leadership and county and state education boards.

For Vaccine Injury, Turn to the Experienced Attorneys at Sadaka Law

Sometimes, a child develops a negative reaction called a “vaccine injury.” If your child develops complications after receiving the required immunizations for high school, call Sadaka Law today at 800-810-4139 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with our legal team.

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