Immunizations required for children entering school the first time

By Rozella Hardin
STAR Staff
Although children think they're invincible, childhood communicable diseases can be devastating.
With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, Kathy Bowman, Nursing Supervisor of the Carter County Health Department, reminds parents that certain immunizations are mandatory for schoolchildren.
Children entering Tennessee public schools for the first time, including transfers from out-of-state or private schools, are required to furnish the following:
* Certified copy of birth certificate
* Proof of school entry medical examination
* Certificate of immunization
A child must be five years of age on or before September 30 to enter kindergarten or six years of age on or before September 30 to enter first grade. A certified copy of the birth certificate is needed to verify that the child meets these age requirements. Parents may obtain a copy of a child's birth certificate from the health department in the state where their child was born. Birth certificates may be obtained by the Carter County Health Department on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
A complete medical examination or medical assessment is also required before a child enters a Tennessee public school for the first time. The examination can be performed by a doctor, health clinic, or local health department. The health department can provide free checkups for all children who have TennCare through the EPSD&T (Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment) program. The checkup would include a complete health and developmental history, physical exam, needed immunizations, lab tests, vision and hearing tests, and dental screening. An appointment is necessary.
Children starting to school for the first time and those transferring from out-of-state or non-public schools to public schools will need a temporary or permanent certificate of immunization. This certificate is a record of the child's immunization status and is required by law for public school attendance.
Official proof of the child's immunization can be obtained from the child's physician, health clinic, or health department where the child is immunized. Children who have received some of the necessary shots are given a temporary certificate of immunization. A permanent certificate of immunization is issued when all required vaccinations are completed. These two forms are the only accepted proof of school immunization.
The following immunizations are required in Tennessee:
* Hepatitis B -- A complete series of three doses of hepatitis B vaccine is required for all children born after Jan. 1, 1994. Tennessee requires a hepatitis B shot for entry into seventh grade. Recommended schedule of immunizations is at birth, prior to discharge from hospital, 1-2, and 6-18 months.
* Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis -- Tennessee requires at least four doses. Children must have had at least one dose of the vaccine after their fourth birthday. However, five doses are recommended to be given at 2, 4, and 6, 12-18 months and 4-6 years.
* Polio -- Tennessee requires four doses, to be given at 2, 4, 6-18 months and 4-6 years.
* Measles, mumps and rubella -- Tennessee requires a minimum of two doses of measles, mumps and rubella shots. Most children receive two doses each because they usually are administered the combination vaccine, MMR. The two minimum doses are recommended to be given at 12 to 15 months and 4 to 6 months.
* Varicella, or chickenpox -- In Tennessee, all children born after Jan. 1, 1997, are required to have had a dose of chickenpox vaccine after their first year. Usually, the vaccine is given between 12 and 18 months.
* Pneumococcal vaccine -- Four doses, given at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months.
* Hib (haemophiolus) -- Three or four doses, at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months or at 2, 4, and 12-15 months, depending on vaccine.
Parents are urged to obtain their child's temporary or permanent immunization certificate and any required medical examination as early as possible before school begins.
In Tennessee, TennCare will pay for the shots. For those who don't receive TennCare, shots are available at health departments on a sliding-fee scale.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the Carter County Health Department at 543-2521.