Parents and guardians have until Oct. 1, 2015, to show proof to the school that his or her child has obtained the vaccines listed below. If documentation is not provided by Oct. 1, the student will be excluded from school and not allowed to re-enter school until documentation is provided.

Parents registering children who are new to Arkansas public or private schools must provide his or her vaccine record prior to completing school registration and enrollment.

Last year a new requirement was added that children, 11 years of age or older on or before Sep. 1, must have a Tdap shot (prevents tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough). Previously a Tdap shot was required for students before entering Grade 7. Only one Tdap is now required so children who have already received the shot will not need another.

This change was made last year to provide better protection from whooping cough (pertussis). Pertussis is highly contagious and causes uncontrollable, violent coughing fits, which often make it hard to breathe. In some cases, it can result in death. Pertussis cases have increased dramatically in the past three years.

Vaccine requirements

Vaccine requirements for all Arkansas public and private school students for the 2015-2016 school year are:

  • Pre-kindergarten: two Hepatitis A shots; first dose after first birthday
  • Kindergarten and Grade 1: one Hepatitis A shot that was given after first birthday
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: three polio shots; one shot must have been given after the fourth birthday
  • Grade 7: one meningitis (MCV4) shot
  • Age 16: students turning age 16 on or before Sep. 1 regardless of their grade must have one MCV4 shot if they have not had one. If they had one prior to turning 16, they will need a second shot. Students turning age 16 years on or before Sep. 1 will have until Oct. 1 to meet this requirement.
  • Grades 1 through 12: four DTaP shots, with one given on or after the fourth birthday; only three DTaP shots are required if the student did not receive any before age 7.
  • Kindergarten through Grade 12: two varicella (chickenpox) shots; first dose after the first birthday. History of disease can be provided in lieu of getting the shot, but only if reported by a medical professional.
  • Daycare and childcare facility students: In addition to the previous requirements, children in childcare need one or two Hepatitis A shots, depending on their age and one to four polio shots, depending on age. Wait at least six months after the third polio shot before getting the fourth one.

These requirements do not include all shots recommended for children. Talk to your doctor about additional recommended immunizations.

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 infectious 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 reemerge if individuals decide not to vaccinate themselves or their children.

Before your child is vaccinated:

  • Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of vaccines, along with potential consequences of not getting vaccinations. Parents may be surprised to learn that children can be harmed or die of measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Tell your doctor if your child is sick or has been sick, or has a weakened immune system. Let them know about any side effects your child had to previous vaccinations. Be sure to let your doctor know about any allergies to eggs or latex. Some vaccines are supplied in vials or prefilled syringes that may contain natural rubber latex.
  • Vaccines are available at local health department 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. Bring your insurance cards to the ADH health unit. If you do not have insurance or your insurance does not pay, the local unit will immunize your child at no cost to you.

Immunization exemption requirements

The requirements for immunization exemptions were changed last year. If a parent or guardian wants an exemption based on medical, philosophical or religious reasons, he or she must contact the Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) Immunization Section (501-661-2169 or email the immunization.section@arkansas.gov) for an exemption application. Proof of exemption or exemption application is required before school starts. This is an annual requirement and the process is lengthy. The application must be reviewed and approved by the ADH before an exemption is granted. Medical professionals can no longer approve exemptions.

Parents and guardians 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.

The complete immunization requirements can be found on the ADH’s website here.

For more information about recommended shots for all ages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, follow this link.