Get Vaccines Done Early: Kindergarteners, 7th Graders Due for Vaccinations
If your child or teen needs an up-to-date shot record before school starts in August, it’s best not to put it off.
By Jean Yaeger
A new school year is just around the corner and it’s time for incoming kindergarteners and seventh-graders to get caught up on their routine immunizations.
Vaccines to protect against certain contagious diseases – including measles, polio and chickenpox – are required for students in Texas. Your child or teen might need a few boosters depending on their grade and whether they’re behind on their shot schedule.
Cook Children’s wants parents to know that vaccines for school are safe and proven tools to prevent diseases from spreading through the classroom and beyond.
“These vaccines have been around for a long time. There's nothing new to these vaccines, and they're as safe as they've ever been,” said Erin Bridgewater, M.D. at Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Celina.
The 2023-2024 Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements lists the number of doses that students need. If an incoming kindergartener has missed out on vaccines normally given at age 4, these additional vaccines are due now:
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
- DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
- IPV (inactivated poliovirus)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
And between the ages of 11-12 years, these additional vaccines are due:
- MCV4 (meningitis)
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)
About 7% of seventh-graders statewide either submitted exemptions or were delinquent in their meningitis and Tdap vaccines in the 2022-2023 school year. The concern is that a decline in the vaccination rate makes the general population more vulnerable to a disease catching hold.
“These illnesses are still very much present and could possibly cause serious illness in our children, especially if we don't continue to vaccinate and keep that high level of herd immunity that keeps these things from spreading,” Dr. Bridgewater said.
For example, a pediatric patient in June 2023 was diagnosed with the first confirmed measles case in Texas since 2019. And in New York in 2022 an adult was diagnosed with the first case of polio identified in the United States in nearly a decade.
Making an Appointment
If your child or teen needs an up-to-date shot record before school starts in August, it’s best not to put it off. Schedule your child's appointment earlier in the summer to get what you need for the school year. A spike in appointments and rush for vaccinations and school physicals can cause delays at Cook Children’s pediatrics offices. You can make an appointment at any Cook Children’s neighborhood clinics or pediatric office, including the site in Celina, which opened in April.
Dr. Bridgewater understands that it’s easy to lose track of checkups and shots -- especially for families in transition, like the influx of residents moving into the fast-growing area around Celina and Cook Children’s Medical Center - Prosper.
“A lot of parents meant to come in,” she said. “Things got busy and so they just kind of forgot. We certainly want to help people in those situations.”
The boosters required for kindergarten and for seventh grade can usually be administered in one visit to the clinic or office. If the patient needs a checkup, it’s an appointment with the doctor. If the patient needs vaccinations only, it’s an appointment with the nurse.
How do vaccines work? The needle injects a portion of a pathogen into the body so that the immune system learns to recognize the virus or bacteria, Dr. Bridgewater said. Vaccines don’t cause infection.
“It's kind of like we're giving their immune system a snapshot of the most important piece of the puzzle so that if their immune system sees that piece again, they already know how to respond,” Dr. Bridgewater said.
She explains to her patients that it’s better to get one preventive poke than to catch a disease that might put them in the hospital. She welcomes any questions they or their parents want to ask so that they can feel confident and informed. Dr. Bridgewater wants to dispel any myths and misinformation that might be a stumbling block.
Dr. Bridgewater believes in vaccines not just as a pediatrician, but as a mom. She points out that her own two kids in recent years got the shots they needed for school.
“I want other parents to have the same reassurance that I have,” she said. “If they've heard anything at all that makes them concerned, I really encourage them to reach out and ask those questions instead of living in fear and then maybe avoiding something that could truly be lifesaving for their children.”
Schedule an Appointment
Cook Children’s families can go to the MyCookChildren’s patient portal to schedule an appointment or access the immunization records needed for school registration. If you’re looking for a pediatrician, you can find the Cook Children’s location most convenient to you by visiting https://www.cookchildrens.org/visit/pediatrician-offices/