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Don’t forget to schedule those shots

August 7, 2018

There are plenty of things to worry about in the last month before school starts.

But don’t forget to schedule those shots.

Robert Jacobson, the medical director for the employee and community health immunization program at Mayo Clinic, ran through the immunizations parents and children should receive at every grade level.

And that list goes way beyond flu shots.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurance providers to cover all of these preventative shots, Jacobson said. Children on some Minnesota State medical assistance also should be covered, and for students with no insurance, Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center receive free vaccines they can give away.

Kindergarten to first grade

Parents of young children might know they should have completed their diptheria/tetanus/pertussis (DTaP) series (five doses), polio (four doses), hepatitis B (two doses), measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) shots (two doses) and chicken pox vaccines by age 4 to 6.

That’s the full childhood series of shots, Jacobson said, and parents do a good job of getting their children in for the early doses.

What’s sometimes tricky is fitting in those last shots before the beginning of the school year, he said. To that end, parents can ask about “combination” injections, which pair the last polio shot with the last DTaP one, for example, or MMR with chicken pox.

Pain-reducing measures such as coolant sprays, vibrating ice and even numbing cream can also be helpful when young children need multiple shots.

“We have a variety of measures to take the sting out of shots,” Jacobson said.

Second through sixth grade

If the childhood series of shots was completed, there aren’t many summer shots to take care of in this time period, unless a child needs a hepatitis A shot for travel.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines can start at age 9 (two doses) but aren’t required for school at this age.

That doesn’t mean the next four years will be needle-free, though.

The flu is a huge problem for schools. Many outbreaks begin there, given how easy it is for kids to swap germs. But teens and adults — everyone, really — should have a flu shot by the end of November, Jacobson said.

Keep an eye out for immunizations offered at schools or local clinics.

Seventh grade

In middle school or junior high, look into the adolescent version of the pertussis vaccine. The HPV vaccine is definitely recommended at this point, as is the first dose of the meningococcal vaccine, which protects a rare, but “troubling” disease, Jacobson said. The rate of meningococcal disease is still low but doubles between ages 11 and 20, he said.

If children received a hepatitis A shot as a child, now also is a good time to receive the second shot in that series, Jacobson said.

While a single hep A shot protects the recipient for six to 12 months, the second shot provides “lifelong protection,” Jacobson said.

10th to 11th gradE

Students ages 16 and older should get the second meningococcal vaccine, Jacobson said. Most colleges want records of all of these vaccines, he added, so parents should make sure they have paper copies of vaccines they can supply to schools.

Some campuses do require a different meningococcal B vaccine (three doses) as well, before students can enroll in the college or university.

Beyond

Flu vaccines are important at every age, Jacobson said.

For people who don’t like shots, this year, nasal flu vaccines should be available in clinics and at schools, he said, although that option hasn’t been offered during the past two years.

One more thing — pain control is more common for young children, but Jacobson said it’s also a reasonable request for older patients.

“Seeing a needle can be a distressing thing, and even if you’ve been able to put up with it, we’ll use the numbing spray on an 18-year-old if they want it,” Jacobson said. “I don’t have any problem making an event less painful.”

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