What vaccinations does my kindergartner need before school? 7 questions with Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D.

By Kristy Bleizeffer Aug 16, 2016

‘Vaccines not only protect individuals, but entire communities. Immunizations are vital to the public health goal of preventing diseases,’ said Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D. ‘When a critical number of people in a community are vaccinated against an

Natrona County schools begin in just two weeks, and if you have a student who is new to the district or entering kindergarten or seventh grade, you will need to prove that they are up-to-date on their vaccinations. 

“Vaccines not only protect individuals, but entire communities. Immunizations are vital to the public health goal of preventing diseases,” said Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D., a pediatrician at Mesa Primary Care in west Casper. “When a critical number of people in a community are vaccinated against an illness, the entire community becomes less likely to get the disease.”

Wyoming law says students have 30 days after the start of classes to show immunizations are up to date. Here, Dr. Knudson answers 7 questions about school vaccinations.

1. How many vaccinations do students need before entering kindergarten?

In Wyoming, before entering kindergarten or if they are new to a school district, students need five different vaccines. All of them require two or more doses to be effective. They are:

  • DTP/DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) is a combination vaccine that protects against these three serious illnesses. The last shot in the series needs to be given after the age of 4.
  • IPV (Polio) protects against this highly infectious viral disease that invades the nervous system. It is a multiple-shot series with the last dose given after the age of four.
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) is another combination vaccine that protects against these three diseases and is given as a two-shot series before kindergarten.
  • HBV (Hepatitis B) protects against this serious disease that attacks the liver and is spread through contact with blood or body fluids. The vaccine is given as a three-shot series.
  • VAR (Varicella or Chickenpox) is recommended in two doses for children, adolescents and adults to protect against getting chickenpox. 
  • HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type b) completed series is needed for kindergartners. 

2. What vaccinations do students need before middle school?

Before entering seventh grade, students need a booster shot of the Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis). Several other vaccines – for HPV, meningitis and hepatitis A – are recommended for teenagers but not required. Families should talk to their doctors about them.

3. Why should children be vaccinated?

Vaccines are important to prevent against diseases, and each one prevents against one to several infectious diseases. 

The Tdap or DTaP, for example, prevents against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (or whooping cough). Whooping cough can cause death in children under 1 which is why it is a very important vaccine. Another example is the MMR which prevents against measles, mumps and rubella.  We have seen both measles and mumps make a comeback recently because of the decrease in vaccine rates. Rubella can cause birth defects if a pregnant mother is exposed. 

These are just a few of the ways that vaccines help protect children. 

4. If a disease has been eradicated in the United States through vaccination programs, could it come back?

Yes, a disease is just a plane ride away. Polio, for example, still infects people in some African countries.

If vaccination rates continue to decline, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, polio and tetanus could make a comeback in the United States.

For example, in winter of 2014, several children who visited Disneyland came down with measles, a disease that hadn’t affected the United States for almost 15 years. Mumps outbreaks (a disease that used to sicken 200,000 people per year) have popped up in schools, camps and colleges in recent years. And a few years ago, Natrona County schools even had a couple of cases of whooping cough.

5.  How can parents keep up with all these scheduled vaccinations?

The best way is to work out a schedule with your pediatrician or family doctor at one of your child’s normal wellness visits. Then, make sure you go to the appointments to get the shots they need. One of the most important things to occur at your child’s wellness visits are getting the vaccinations they need.

6. My child needs school vaccinations. Can they get them at Mesa Primary Care?

Mesa Primary Care is happy to see your child for a well-child exam and administer their school vaccinations. It is important that children are seen yearly for well-child exams and the immunization schedule is addressed at that time.

7. Can my child get his or her school vaccinations at Immediate Care?

Immediate Care is for acute sick or injury type visits, so we are unable to do vaccines in the walk-in clinic. There are short wait times to set up with a primary care physician on the primary care side of Mesa, and we would be happy to see your child for a well-child check and vaccines. 

Melissa Knudson-Johnson, MD

Melissa Knudson-Johnson M.D.

Dr. Knudson-Johnson is an internal medicine and pediatrics doctor which is called med-peds, a type of medical specialty which trains physicians to be board eligible in both pediatrics and internal medicine. She sees patients of all ages at Mesa Primary Care. She is board certified in pediatrics and is board eligible in internal medicine.