Vaccines serve to prevent diseases, some of which can be fatal. In the United States, a number of vaccinations are recommended for children entering school. In fact, most states require proof of immunization before a child may begin school. Such requirements are intended not only to protect the health of those receiving them, but also to prevent disease in those unable to receive vaccinations due to medical issues.
Each state has its own set of requirements for vaccinating children before they begin school. The most commonly required vaccinations include the diphtheria; tetanus, pertussis (DTaP); hepatitis A; hepatitis B; haemophilus influenzae (Hib); polio; varicella; and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. A small number of states require the pneumococcal as well. Some states also require meningococcal vaccines for individuals entering college.
The easiest way to determine which vaccinations are required for school children in your state is to contact your local school or school district. By doing so, you should be able to obtain up-to-date information concerning the requirements in your area. This is an important step, as vaccination requirements can change. Most states follow the recommendations of immunization authorities, such as the Committee on Infectious Diseases of the Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in regulating vaccinations. States may also consider recommendations offered by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Though most states do require vaccinations for school children, many also allow for parents to refuse them. In many states, parents may avoid immunizing their children by filing medical exemptions with school officials. In other states, exemptions can be granted for religious and philosophical reasons as well.
In other countries, vaccinations may be handled differently. For example, some countries recommend and offer vaccinations for school children, but do not require them. Some countries offer the same immunizations as those available in the United States, while others omit some and add others to the list of offered vaccinations.
Some parents object to immunizing their children because they fear the vaccinations will cause harm. In some cases, parents have blamed vaccines for causing serious medical damage to their children. Most medical experts assert, however, that vaccines are safe, except under rare circumstances. They state that the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh any possible risks.