Parents working on checklists to get their children ready for the start of school have an important health item to include: required immunizations.
All children enrolling in Tennessee schools for the first time, as well as those going into the seventh grade, must provide an official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes start
The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state’s immunization information system.
All students entering seventh grade are required to have proof they have had two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, or a history of the illness, and a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough, commonly known as Tdap, to protect them through their teens. Another required immunization is for measles, mumps and rubella, also known as MMR.
In addition, pediatricians recommend preteens get their first of three doses of a vaccine to help prevent cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, as well as their first dose of meningitis vaccine.
Although HPV and meningitis vaccines are not required for preteens, they are recommended to be given at the same time as the required Tdap booster and any other vaccine a child may need.
Incoming college students in Tennessee public colleges who will reside in campus housing must provide proof of immunization against meningococcal meningitis after age 16.
Medical or religious exemptions may apply for families not wishing to have their children immunized, but proper documentation is required.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, immunizations required for school are available from most healthcare providers across the state, including county health departments. Children younger than 19 may be eligible for free vaccines if they have no insurance, are enrolled in TennCare, have private insurance that does not cover vaccines or are American Indian or Alaska native.
Most insurance plans, including TennCare, fully cover recommended and state-required childhood vaccines, as well as the cost of annual well child examinations through the age of 21. Insured children are encouraged to visit their primary healthcare provider or other provider who can administer vaccines and bill insurance for any services they might need. TDH strongly recommends a visit to the child's primary care provider so the child can have an annual well child physical exam at the same time. Annual wellness visits are important to keep children healthy through all the changes of the pre-teen and teenage years, but many don't get these important preventive health services.
Local health departments have vaccines available for all uninsured children, those whose insurance doesn't cover vaccines, and any child who has difficulty getting in to see a healthcare provider to get a required vaccine. Local health departments can issue immunization certificates and transcribe immunization records for any child if the family isn't able to get a certificate from their healthcare provider for any reason.
The complete list of Tennessee Child Care and School Immunization requirements is available on the TDH website at: http://health.state.tn.us/TWIS/requirements.htm. Questions about school policies on when or how immunization certificates must be provided should be directed to local schools.