The Tennessee Department of Health encourages parents to have their school-age children immunized now to avoid long lines and extended wait times that may occur closer to the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Immunization requirements apply to any student enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time including all Kindergarten students. Requirements also apply to all rising seventh graders.
Meri-Leigh Smith who coordinates health initiatives within the Murfreesboro City School System told us only two exemptions exist that will allow for a child to skip the required shots prior to the start of the school year.
"The recent measles outbreak is a wake-up call," said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Vaccines protect our children and vulnerable children around them. If your child still needs vaccines for school, getting them now is much easier and less stressful than when clinics are busy with the last-minute rush."
"Clinics are not running short on vaccines and in many clinics it's much easier to get an appointment," said Tennessee Immunization Program Director Kelly Moore, MD. "This is also the time for a complete well-child physical and to make sure your child is up to date on all recommended vaccines, not just required ones. Your child can enjoy the rest of the summer and start the school year on time, fully prepared for healthy learning."
Here are the requirements for school vaccinations in Tennessee:
• Kindergarteners and other children enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time must provide schools with a complete Official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes begin. The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state's immunization information system.
• All current students entering seventh grade are required to give the school a limited Official Tennessee Immunization Certificate showing they have had a second dose of chickenpox vaccine (or a history of the illness) and a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The HPV cancer vaccine and first meningococcal meningitis vaccine are also recommended, but not required for school, for this age group.
• Incoming college students in Tennessee public colleges who will live in on-campus housing must provide proof of immunization against meningococcal meningitis after age 16. Most private colleges also have requirements for this vaccine and some schools require it of all new students. Check with your college for details.
Immunizations required for school are readily available from most healthcare providers across the state, including county health departments. Children younger than age 19 may be eligible for free vaccine if they have no insurance, are enrolled in TennCare, have private insurance that does not cover vaccines or are American Indian or Alaska Native.
"If your pre-teen or teen is getting a required vaccine, be sure he or she does not miss the recommended Human Papillomavirus cancer vaccine," Moore said. "This vaccine can prevent HPV cancers in men and women. HPV causes many head and neck cancers and cervical cancer that affect tens of thousands of people each year in the U.S. The vaccine's protection is strong and very long-lasting. It will protect against cancer-causing infection for years and years."
The complete list of Tennessee child care and school immunization requirements is on the TDH website at www.tennesseeiis.gov and the kidcentral tn website. Kidcentral tn also has additional information about the importance of immunizations. Local schools and school districts can provide information about when and how immunization certificates need to be provided.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://health.state.tn.us/.