With the first day of school just a few weeks away for many Mississippi children, health officials are urging parents not to wait until the last minute to get the required back-to-school immunizations.
Mississippi state law requires children be immunized against certain childhood diseases before they start school, public or private, as well as Head Start and daycare programs.
Christy Thornton is the health officer for the Department of Health on the Mississippi coast. She says for school-age children, vaccinations are required when entering kindergarten and 7th grade.
“There are five required vaccinations for kindergarten, and we want parents to go ahead and get those done ahead of time, because a lot of people do wait until the last minute," she says.
The health department says that the required vaccinations for children entering school in Mississippi for the first time include the following:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP); p
- Polio (IPV);
- Hepatitis B;
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and
- Varicella (chickenpox).
There is one required vaccination for students entering seventh grade: the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccination.
There are also some recommended vaccines for adolescents, including the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) and a meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) for adolescents 11 to 15 years old. MCV4 is also recommended at 16 to 18 years old.
As for side effects, Dr. Jimmy Stewart, professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center, says many patients don’t have side effects at all, but the two most common are redness at the injection site and fever.
"Fever really is an indication that the body is doing what it's supposed to be doing," he says. "The immune system is supposed to look at what we give in the vaccination and help make antibodies against that. And one of the things that it does to help rev up the body's natural immune system is produce a fever."
Ninety-nine percent of Mississippi children receive vaccinations, the highest rate in the nation. That’s due largely to the lack of religious and philosophical exemptions here. The state only allows medical exemptions that are approved by the health department.