Health & Wellness

Back-to-School Immunizations and Physicals


Summer is a busy and wonderful time for both parents and children. Longer days, warmer temperatures and no home work can make us forget that school is right around the corner.

It is fine to enjoy the relaxing days of summer, but don’t forget to make sure your children will be prepared for the beginning of school. This is especially important for children that are starting school for the first time. Children that are planning on playing sports in the fall semester at school may need a recent sports physical, and most schools require updated immunizations.

Children that will be enrolled in 5K can really benefit from a complete health assessment with a provider trained to diagnose any conditions that may interfere with him getting off to a great start in school. At the 5-year-old check up, vision and hearing is evaluated as well as a developmental screening exam that is appropriate to that age group. If there are any abnormalities noted, appropriate referrals can be made so the child can get the help needed before school starts. Immunizations also can be updated prior to the start of school.

The required immunizations for enrolling in K5 are four doses of any grouping of a combined vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough (Tdap), diphtheria and tetanus (DT), or the tetanus-diphtheria (TD) vaccine with at least one dose occurring after the fourth birthday. Three doses of oral/or inactivated polio are required for school entry with the third dose occurring after age 4. Two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) and two doses of Varicella vaccines need to be given before starting school. The second dose of these two vaccines needs to be given on or after the fourth birthday. Three doses of hepatitis B vaccine are also required.

Parents will need an updated Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) immunization form that they can pick up from their doctor before the start of school.

There are no added requirements for older children to attend school, but there are several recommendations that health providers agree are a good idea. They recommend a Tdap booster to be given at age 11, along with a meningococcal vaccine. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are now recommended for boys and girls older than 9-years-of-age. Hepatitis A vaccines are also recommended.

Each year DHEC makes small changes to the vaccine requirements for school age children. A yearly check up with your child’s physician, who can keep parents updated on these changes, can make the start of the school year a little less stressful for everyone involved with the beginning of school.

By Dr. Cynthia Heldrich, a board certified pediatrician at West Ashley Primary Care

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