Back to school means it's time for physicals and vaccinations
by Jessica Brewer, LMH Health
Thinking about heading back to school can be an exciting time. Students get to prepare their lockers, see their friends every day and get new school supplies. It also means it’s time for annual check-ups. LMH Health wants to make sure that parents understand the importance of visiting your doctor and about the vaccine requirements for students enrolled in Lawrence Public Schools.
Ashley Bloom, MD
Ashley Bloom, MD, family medicine physician at LMH Health, recommends scheduling a regular check-up to make sure your child is healthy and up-to-date on their immunizations. Once your child is out of the early stages of development, it is important to schedule a yearly check-up. This can be a time for you and your child to discuss any medical concerns. It also gives the physician an opportunity to make sure your child is receiving regular medical care.
“Well-child checks are more than just looking at immunization records and getting them up-to-date,” Bloom said. “We look at a child’s development, behavior and general health to make sure he or she has all the tools necessary to be successful in school.”
For those who do not wish to go to their primary care provider or do not yet have one, there are other options for student physicals and immunizations including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
It’s also important that parents understand what vaccines are required for children to be enrolled in school. Most schools require vaccines against illnesses that, if contracted, can be life-altering or extremely contagious.
“The recommended vaccinations are primarily against communicable diseases,” Bloom said. “These diseases can cause permanent impairments. Getting the vaccine gives a layer of protection and actually help boost the immune system in the long term against other infections.”
Communicable diseases are those where an infection is transmissible from person to person by direct contact with an affected individual. For example, measles can be contracted by a sneeze or a cough from an infected person. The virus can then live in the air for two hours in that area. Someone can have the measles for up to 21 days before being diagnosed with the disease. By that time, it may have spread and infected other people.
“Vaccines protect against diseases that could be harmful to children or others living in our community with weaker immune systems. This includes babies, pregnant women or people receiving cancer treatments,” Bloom said. “Vaccines are safe in general, but if you’re concerned about a reaction, it’s best to discuss with your primary care provider.”
For the 2019-2020 school year, Lawrence Public Schools require children entering kindergarten to have at least one dose of DTaP, IPV, MMR, Varicella and Hepatitis B. This year, students entering kindergarten are also required to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A.
Students entering 7th or 11th grade also have a new requirement. Those students are required to receive one dose of Meningococcal, a vaccine that will protect against serious bacterial infections that can affect the brain and spinal cord.
Children transferring from private school to public school or those who have moved and will be attending public school for the first time in Kansas are required to have a physical before beginning classes. This serves as a general check to make sure all records are correct and that your child is healthy and safe.
It’s important to note that not all students may be immunized. In Kansas, a child may be exempt from immunizations if it conflicts with their religious beliefs or for medical reasons.
If applying for an exemption on religious grounds, parents must submit a written statement explaining their reasoning. That statement is valid for every year a child is due to receive vaccinations. If applying on medical grounds, the child’s physician must provide a written statement detailing the medical exemption. That statement must be provided again each year.
If a communicable disease breaks out in a Lawrence public school, unvaccinated students must be vaccinated within 72 hours from the declaration of an outbreak. If the vaccination is not given, the child will be required to stay home from school for a minimum of 21 days before returning. This allows time for the disease to have fully cleared from the community.
“Vaccine requirements not only protect children and the people in schools, but protect the entire community,” Bloom said. “The required vaccines are standard in most states and they can really protect children. If you have concerns about vaccinations, talk with your primary care physician who can answer many of your questions.”
Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health.