There are several vaccines required of children entering kindergarten, which is why it’s important to start early.

Kids are going and getting ready to go back to school, which means kids will be exposed to new people and new germs. One of the best ways to keep kids safe and healthy when going back to school is to make sure they are up to date on their immunizations.

According to pediatrician Alexandra Clark, MD, division chief of general pediatrics at Loma Linda University Children’s Health, getting vaccinated can create an immunity to 16 preventable diseases including chickenpox, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio, just to name a few.

Here are a few good reasons kids should be up to date on their vaccinations when going back to school:

Getting vaccinated removes the risk of infection. Kids and those they come in close contact with will be protected against infection. “It is our social responsibility to protect the community at large,” Clark said. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated two to three million deaths are averted every year because of vaccines.

Vaccinated kids bring immunity to the classroom. Not only will vaccinated kids keep certain illnesses out of the classroom, but getting vaccinated will help protect those who aren’t. Some kids can’t get vaccinated because they are medically exempt due to medical conditions that prevent them from receiving a vaccine. These include children whose immune systems are compromised or if they are receiving chemotherapy.

The benefits heavily outweigh the risks. The most common side effects of immunizations are soreness at the injection site, a low-grade fever or fussiness. “Many things we do in medicine have a risk,” Clark said. “But these side effects are much less risky than the lifelong complications that could be caused by not getting vaccinated.”

There are several vaccines required of children entering kindergarten, which is why it’s important to start early.

Clark acknowledges that parents sometimes have concerns , but much of the time parents’ fears are grounded on nonscientific data and hearsay, and she emphasized the importance of parents working with their physician to discuss their concerns, especially for those kids who have never been vaccinated.

“As pediatricians, it’s our job to find out what the parents’ concerns and fears are,” Clark said, “and understand where they are coming from, working together to make the best decision for the health of the child”

Kids receive most vaccines over a period of time. Clark recommends starting early and planning to get fully vaccinated. For those kids who aren’t up to date, parents can work with their pediatrician to get their kids caught up using a catch-up schedule. “It’s important for parents to have a structured plan with their provider to hit the milestones,” said Clark.

For more information on kids and immunizations, contact your provider or Loma Linda University Department of Pediatrics at 909-558-2828.