Are your children ready for the new school year? They’ll need more than new back packs and sneakers. The first step is to get their immunizations up-to-date.

Parents or guardians must show proof that all immunizations required by Arkansas law have been met when registering children for school. If documentation is not provided by Oct. 1, students will be sent home and not allowed to return until documentation is provided.

Immunization requirements by Arkansas law:

  • Kindergarten and Grade 1: one Hepatitis A shot after first birthday
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: three polio shots; one shot given after fourth birthday
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: two varicella (chickenpox) shots; first dose after first birthday. May not be required if doctor (not parent) verifies the child had chickenpox.
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: two measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shots; one dose after first birthday
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: three doses of Hepatitis B
  • Kindergarten: four doses of either DTaP, DTP or DT-pediatric; one dose after fourth birthday
  • Grades 1 through 12: three or four doses of either DTaP, DTP, DT-pediatric, Td-adult or Tdap; one Tdap required for children age 11 (on or before Sept. 1) or older for each year
  • Grade 7: one dose of meningococcal (MCV4)
  • Age 16: one dose of meningococcal by age 16 (on or before Sept. 1), regardless of grade. If dose given before age 16, a second dose required at least 8 weeks later.
  • Pre-kindergarten, daycare or childcare: children must meet the requirements for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, DTaP, MMR, polio, type B flu, pneumococcal and varicella, depending on age

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends three rotavirus shots that not are required by Arkansas law.

Before a child is immunized, tell your doctor if the child is sick, has recently been sick or has a weakened immune system. Let him or her know about any side effects the child had to previous vaccinations, including any allergies to eggs or latex. Some vaccines are supplied in vials or prefilled syringes that may contain natural rubber latex.

FREE shots

Vaccines are available at local Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) offices, primary care doctors’ or pediatricians’ offices, and at Arkansas Children’s Hospital General Pediatric Clinic if the child is a patient there. Some pharmacies will vaccinate children at age 7 and older. Be sure to bring your insurance card.

If the child doesn’t have health insurance or the insurance doesn’t pay for shots, the local ADH unit will immunize the child for free ($5 record fee may be charged).

If the child is not enrolled in the free ARKids First health insurance program, call 888-474-8275 (weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to enroll. You may also enroll at your local Department of Human Services county office. To be eligible for ARKids First, a child must be under age 18, and parents/guardian must have low income (assets are not considered). ARKids First will pay the insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments.

New Student and Kindergarten registration

Students who are new to Arkansas public schools and children starting kindergarten this fall will need the following to register for school:

  • Updated shot/immunization record or approved exemption. Get shot record from your doctor or ADH.
  • Copy of birth certificate. Copies can be obtained by contacting the ADH, Vital Records office at 800-637-9314.
  • Social Security card. Call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213.
  • Health history completed by parent/guardian. Forms are usually supplied by the school.
  • Physical exam by a health care professional (ask for a Well-Child visit)

 

Immunization exemptions

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) can grant an exemption from the above immunizations. Proof of exemption from the ADH is required every year before school starts. Doctors can no longer approve exemptions, only the ADH. Parents or guardians who choose not to have a child immunized may apply for an exemption by contacting the ADH’s Immunization Section (501-537-3969 or email: immunization.section@arkansas.gov) for an application. This is an annual requirement.

Parents/guardians requesting an exemption should understand that if there are reported cases of a vaccine-preventable communicable disease, students with an exemption may be excluded from school for up to 21 days, or until the ADH deems that it is safe for the exempted student to return to school.

Why vaccinate?

Vaccines protect children from many serious illnesses caused by infectious diseases. The risk of being harmed by vaccines is much less than the risk of serious illness or even death from these diseases. Vaccines have significantly helped to reduce many childhood diseases such as diphtheria, measles and type B flu. Polio and smallpox have been eliminated in the United States because of vaccines.

Because immunization programs in the 20th Century were so successful, many of today’s parents have never seen many vaccine-preventable diseases. Parents may not understand that these diseases could actually re-emerge if individuals decide not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of vaccines, along with potential consequences of not getting vaccinations.