California Law Requires Vaccines for Middle and High School Students

With the new school year having just begun, the state of California is urging that middle school and high school students be up to date with their vaccinations.

Adolescents are supposed to begin getting new immunizations and booster shots at age 11.

However, as vaccinations are not required in most states for children after kindergarten, and the fact that most kids go to the doctor less frequently as they get older, new immunizations are often missed, says Dr. Melinda Wharton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tweens and teens though, still need protection from diseases such as whooping cough, meningitis and HPV. California has instated a law that aims to improve the number of older school aged children being vaccinated. This year, three-million students returning to school in California will have to show proof of their vaccinations.

Recommended under the mandate are vaccinations for Tdap shots, meningococcal conjugate vaccine and the HPV vaccine for girls.

Tdap protects against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and whooping cough. These shots, usually required for babies and children entering kindergarten, remain necessary for adolescents due to an increasing number of cases in schools, especially of pertussis and whooping cough.

The protection from previous vaccinations wears off by middle school age. And while adolescents usually find it easier to recover from whopping cough in particular, its symptoms are difficult to endure. There is also the chance that teens can pass bacterial infection on to babies who are not vaccinated, for whom the disease is more commonly fatal.

As per the new law, California students between seventh and 12th grade are required to get the Tdap shots.

Also required under the law is the meningococcal conjugate vaccine between ages 11 and 12, with a booster dose at 16. The meningococcal bacteria causes meningitis and bloodstream infections. Meningitis is known for striking those in their teens, especially college freshman. The fast acting ailment can be fatal within 24 hours.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls aged 11 to 12 to protect against strains of human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer. The CDC suggests that girls be fully vaccinated with all three doses before becoming sexually active.

Dr. Wharton notes that the back-to-school season is an opportune time to get parents aware about making sure that their children are properly immunized.

"This whole back-to-school push is a good time for parents to think about their kids in terms of what vaccines are recommended," she said.