Children, School and School-required Vaccinations
Have your school age children been vaccinated yet?
Just before the school year begins, pediatric nurses and other registered nurses, employed by pediatricians and family physician’s offices, are deluged with school age children in need of school-required vaccinations.
In the western world, the majority of school age children already have their vaccination schedules up to date, because this is initiated when the children are still infants. There may be some instances, where children have not been vaccinated yet or have not received all of their school- required vaccinations and need to have this brought up to date.
The parents and guardians of children, who have never been vaccinated, will be confronted with school-required vaccination, as a pre-requisite for school enrollment.
Note that all parents and guardians do not necessarily comprehend what childhood vaccinations are or why they are required, by the schools in which they wish to enroll their children. In fact, some people refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated for different reasons that may include the fear of vaccinations, lack of knowledge about vaccinations, as well as personal or religious preferences. One of the other common fears is that vaccinations may cause the diseases that they are intended to prevent.
What is the role of pediatric nurses with respect to school-required vaccination of children?
First of all, pediatric nurses are knowledgeable about childhood vaccinations and able to explain to the parents or guardians of children, what a vaccination is, what a vaccination schedule entails and why vaccinations are so important to the health of their children and others. They will also reassure parents and guardians about the safety of vaccinations.
The following questions and answers may also be helpful.
What is a vaccination and why is it important?
“Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material (the vaccine) to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccines can prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by a pathogen. Vaccination is generally considered to be the most effective and cost effective method of preventing infectious diseases. The material administered can either be live but weakened forms of pathogens (bacteria or viruses), killed or inactivated forms of these pathogens, or purified material such as proteins.” (1)
How are vaccines administered?
“A vaccine administration may be oral, by injection (intramuscular, intradermal, subcutaneous), by puncture, transdermal or intranasal.” (2)
What is a vaccination schedule?
“A vaccination schedule is a recommended series of vaccinations including the suggested timing of all doses.” (3)
How does a vaccine work?
“A vaccine is an antigenic preparation used to produce active immunity to a disease, in order to prevent or reduce the effects of infection by any natural or ‘wild’ pathogen.” (4)
How many doses of a vaccine are required?
“Many vaccines require multiple doses for maximum effectiveness, either to produce sufficient initial immune response or to boost response that fades over time.” (5)
Have vaccination schedules changed, over the years?
“In 1900, the smallpox vaccine was the only one administered to children. By the 1960’s children routinely received five vaccines, for protection against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio and smallpox, and as many as eight shots by two years of age. As of 2007, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends vaccination against at least sixteen diseases.” (6)
What are the current recommendations for vaccinations for children?
CDC recommendations for children include the following:
Childhood vaccinations for children age 0-6 months include tetanus-diptheria-pertussis (TDP) vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine, Hepatitis B vaccine, HiB vaccine, influenza vaccine, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, polio (inactivated vaccine), pneumococcal vaccine, rotavirus vaccine and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. (7)
Children age 11-12 vaccinations include TDP vaccine, human papillomavirus (for girls), and meningococcus vaccine. (8)
Residency may be a factor with respect to a vaccination schedule for school-required vaccination, as vaccination requirements may vary from country to country. The vaccination schedule that should be adhered to, is the one required where the children will be attending school.
Parents and guardians with questions about their children’s school-required vaccinations, should feel free to speak with pediatric nurses (as well as other registered nurses or health care professionals involved in child health care), as they normally are the ones who administer vaccinations to children. These may also be administered by their children’s physicians, who will answer questions as well.
Note that for parents or guardians who have never been vaccinated, it is a good idea to ask your physician about your own personal vaccination requirements, to protect yourself, as well as your family and others, from infectious diseases.