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Here Are the Back-To-School Vaccinations Your Kids Need

When checking off your back-to-school list, don't forget vaccinations.

In California, few young people are immune from the state's strict vaccination requirements for those attending schools and child care programs. State law requires immunization against a host of childhood diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B and chickenpox (varicella).

Schools generally require proof of vaccinations before students can attend their classes, but there are even better reasons to make sure your children are fully vaccinated.

"Vaccinations are the most important, safest and most effective tools we have to prevent a number of deadly diseases," says Dr. Vikram Anand, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai.

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Vikram C. Anand, MD, PhD

Peds - Infectious Disease

Vikram C. Anand, MD, PhD

Peds - Infectious Disease
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"Vaccinations are the most important, safe, and effective way we have to prevent a number of deadly diseases."


Childhood immunizations fell dramatically during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordering 14% fewer vaccines in the 2020-21 school year. Drops like these leave communities more vulnerable to the spread and resurgence of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles.

"While schools provide an important environment for learning and growing, they also provide the perfect opportunity for infections to spread," Dr. Anand says.

"Vaccinating children is the best way to prevent this from happening. You're not only keeping your child safe, but you're also protecting sick children with weakened immune systems who can't fight infections."

Pediatricians and health officials are urging parents to get back on track. Use the list below to make sure your child is up to date on the immunizations required for California child care programs and schools, according to the California Department of Public Health.



Immunizations needed before starting preschool or child care programs

2-3 months:

4-5 months:

  • 2 doses polio
  • 2 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • 2 doses Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • 2 doses hepatitis B

6-14 months:

  • 2 doses polio
  • 3 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • 2 doses Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • 2 doses hepatitis B

15-17 months:

  • 3 doses polio
  • 3 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • 2 doses hepatitis B
  • 1 dose measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) on or after first birthday
  • 1 dose Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) on or after first birthday

18 months-5 years:

  • 3 doses polio
  • 4 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • 3 doses hepatitis B
  • 1 dose measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) on or after first birthday
  • 1 dose Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) on or after first birthday
  • 1 dose varicella (chickenpox)
Immunizations needed for students entering school between ages 4 and 6
  • 5 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP, DTP or DT); 4 doses OK if one was given on or after fourth birthday
  • 4 doses polio (OPV or IPV); 3 doses OK if one was given on or after fourth birthday
  • 3 doses hepatitis B
  • 2 doses measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), both given on or after first birthday
  • 1 dose varicella (chickenpox)
Immunizations needed for students ages 7 to 17
  • 4 doses diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP, DTP, DT, Tdap or Td); 3 doses OK if last dose was given on or after second birthday
  • 4 doses polio (OPV or IPV); 3 doses OK if one was given on or after second birthday
  • 1 dose measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); 2 doses required at seventh grade
  • 1-2 doses varicella (chickenpox); admission at ages 7-12 need one dose; admission at ages 13-17 need two doses
  • 1 dose tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) at seventh grade or out-of-state transfer admission at grades 8-12; 1 dose on or after the seventh birthday
COVID-19 protection

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shots for children and infants, after an extensive pediatric review.

California health officials have delayed implementing any COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools until at least the 2023-24 school year to allow enough time for full compliance. But the CDC now recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The shots lower the risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus and its evolving variants.

Other vaccines to consider

Dr. Anand also recommends children get the HPV vaccine, which can prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, a cause of cervical cancer and other cancers.

"The HPV vaccine does work better when you give it to children 9 to 11 years old," he says. "In fact, if they get the vaccine before age 14, they only need two doses since they respond much better than older teenagers, who usually need three doses."

Adults who want to volunteer at schools will need to check with their school for any vaccine requirements or other health clearances. Universities also usually require vaccinations, and students should make sure their shots are up to date before heading back to campus.