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Back-to-School Vaccines: Pediatrician Nathalie Malcolm, M.D. Explains Why it’s Vital for Children to Receive On-Time Vaccinations

September 25, 2023
Pediatrician Nathalie Malcom, M.D.

As you and your family get back into the routine of school runs by day and homework by night, it’s time to think about your children’s wellness. Here, Dr. Nathalie Malcolm, a board-certified pediatrician, underscores the critical importance of timely childhood vaccinations, including influenza vaccination, in safeguarding against preventable diseases, aligning with CDC recommendations.

The Importance of Vaccines

It’s flu season. That means taking the proper steps to protect children from preventable infections, some of which can be life-threatening. Whether it’s measles, mumps, polio or the seasonal flu, there's a tried, tested and trusted vaccine to stave off many unwanted and contagious illnesses.

Receiving routine vaccinations remains crucial post-COVID-19. Regular checkups for both children and teens are crucial to check in on developmental milestones, discuss behavior and nutrition and get the vaccines that will keep them safe and healthy.

Here are the vaccines children need to stave off preventable diseases and how often they should get them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended vaccines for school-age kids include:

Preschool and Elementary School Years: Ages 3 to 10

If this is your child’s first year in school, you may need a certificate of immunization to enroll your child in school. Note that depending on the vaccine, children may require more than one dose of a vaccine to continue to build and boost immunity.

This is true for the flu vaccine, which is an annual exam. Influenza viruses constantly change, while the body’s immune response declines over time, which is why anyone older than six months old needs a yearly flu shot.

Per the CDC guidelines, at 4-6 years of age, your child should receive vaccines to protect them from the following diseases:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) (DTaP) (5th dose)
  • Polio (IPV) (4th dose)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (2nd dose)
  • Chickenpox (Varicella) (2nd dose)
  • Influenza (Flu) (every year, starting in the fall, by the end of October, if possible)

Preteen and Teen Years: Ages 11 to 18

Protection from childhood vaccines wears off, so adolescents need additional protection before the risk of exposure increases. If your teen is about to enter college, ensure their vaccinations are up to date and all relevant records are in hand. Heads up: Should they travel outside the United States, they could need additional vaccines, depending on the destination.

  • Influenza (Flu) (every year, starting in the fall, by the end of October, if possible)
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) given at 16 years old (2nd dose)
  • Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) may be given, preferably at 16 through 18 years (2 doses)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: At 11 through 12 years and a second dose 6 to 12 months following the first dose. Note that this vaccine is beneficial in preventing cervical cancer.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine: At 11 to 12 years

As students return to the classroom, it's essential to ensure that kids and teens get a healthy start. On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential in providing children with immunity before a dangerous illness has a chance. Be sure to make an appointment for that child wellness visit now and talk with your provider about which vaccines your child may need this year.

Dr. Nathalie Malcolm is dual-board certified in pediatrics and internal medicine, which means she can see patients of any age. She is based at MUSC Health Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in North Charleston. For an appointment, call 843-876-1818.