Vaccines Required for Different Ages
Know which shots are required, and which are optional
Heading to the pediatrician for shots can induce anxiety for children and parents, but is considered by most experts to be vital for a child’s health and entry into school. If you’ve ever held your baby so a nurse could administer a vaccine — and heard the wails that followed — you have felt your child’s pain, even though you knew the shot was needed.
Often, during routine vaccination appointments, parents are asked to decide whether they should vaccinate their child against emerging diseases. Pediatricians provide parents with written information about these optional vaccines and are there to answer questions about what’s best for your child. But parents may feel pressured to make a decision quickly and leave the office uncertain about whether they’ve made the right choice.
The best way to prepare for your child’s next round of vaccines is to know which shots are required and which are optional. Request your child’s vaccination record from your pediatrician’s office so you can ensure that he is current with his required vaccination schedule. You can also gather information on optional shots ahead of your child’s appointment. Keep in mind that requirements for shots change with time and vary from state to state.
What’s New in North Carolina
In 2014, the North Carolina Commission on Public Health enacted a change in the vaccination schedule that affected middle and high school students. Students enrolling in seventh grade are required to have one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) and one dose of the meningococcal vaccine. Students who enroll in 12th grade after July 1, 2020, will also be required to have an additional booster of the meningococcal vaccine.
Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that includes meningitis and septicemia (blood infection), according to WebMD. About 50 percent of meningococcal cases are meningococcal meningitis. Although rare, the infection can be fatal. Meningitis, which can swell tissues around the brain and spinal cord, develops rapidly and can claim the life of an otherwise healthy person in as little as one day after the first symptoms appear. Common activities such as kissing, sharing utensils and water bottles, and living in close quarters such as a dormitory or sleep-away summer camp can increase the risk of exposure to the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.
The North Carolina Pediatric Society applauded the recent rule change, saying it brings North Carolina’s vaccination standards for these diseases in line with national recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which was established under Section 222 of the Public Health Service Act.
For teens currently entering college who have not already had the vaccines or boosters, Tdap, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B vaccines must all be up to date in order for that teen to attend a North Carolina college or university.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, though not required, is recommended by the CDC beginning at age 11 and will be offered to your child at his or her annual appointment. Children who elect to receive the HPV vaccine prior to the age of 15 will receive two doses, while those starting age 15 or later will receive three doses of the vaccine.
All children in North Carolina public and private schools must have received the immunizations mandated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for entry into school. However, if a child has a valid medical or religious exemption, he or she is not required to be vaccinated.
If you have a child under age 2, it may seem that you’re frequently heading to the pediatrician for shots. The frequency of recommended immunizations is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. You can view the recommended immunizations for children from birth through age 18 at cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html.