Immunization requirements differ slightly between states, but most are consistent with those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vaccines listed below are those the state Board of Health has determined are important to keep your child and their classmates safe.
Dr. Laura Sisterhen, the medical director of the General Pediatrics Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, recommends consulting with your pediatrician for guidance and more information.
“Bottom Line: check with your school district, your child’s school nurse, and your child’s primary care provider. Immunizations that are required for school do not include all the vaccinations available to your child to prevent disease and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC,” Dr. Sisterhen said.
Many of these vaccinations require a series of shots over a period of time. Following the recommended schedule of immunizations became more challenging in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, but Dr. Sisterhen said pediatricians can keep children with accurate shot records up-to-date on immunizations. And, in the case of missing shot records, pediatricians can safely begin the immunization process again.
“We did see a lot of children get behind on vaccinations during the COVID pandemic, because they canceled non-urgent visits, such as the health supervision visit, and so we're catching them up. But parents don't have to worry if they've if they've gotten behind. We just start back where they left off.”
All the diseases prevented by these vaccines are highly contagious, so it's important to stop them before they spread in schools, churches or other communal settings. Arkansans value personal freedom, which is why the state allows religious or philosophical exemptions from vaccinations. It’s important to note: if you’ve claimed an exemption for your child, and an outbreak occurs at their school—like mumps, for example—then your child is required to stay at home until the outbreak is contained.
Before your child enters pre-K, a daycare or an early childhood program these are the required vaccines, in addition to the standard immunizations given by pediatricians, which include Hep B, DTaP, and Polio for infants younger than 12 months old. Infants over 12 months old also need Hep A, MMR, and Varicella vaccines.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- pneumococcal disease (PCV13)
It's useful to know:
- Young children are most at risk for these two diseases. After the age of 5, most children who are not immunocompromised are no longer at high risk of getting these diseases.
Before your child enters Kindergarten - 12th grade these are the required vaccines:
- Hepatitis A (Hep A)
- Hepatitis B (Hep B)
- There is an approved vaccine that immunizes against both Hep A and Hep B.
- Poliomyelitis (Polio)
- Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine given in the United States. Oral polio vaccine (OPV) is used in other countries. Both are effective at preventing polio.
- Varicella, which prevents chickenpox
- If your child has already had chickenpox, a letter from your doctor can be used in place of the vaccine.
- Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (whooping cough)
- One vaccine, referred to as DTaP, provides immunizations against all three diseases.
Variations of this vaccine—DT, Tdap—are used in specific cases or as booster shots. Talk to your pediatrician about your child’s needs.
- Rubeola (red measles)
- Children can be vaccinated against all three diseases with one vaccine, commonly known as MMR.
When your child is 11 years old as of September 1, they are required to have all of the K-12 vaccines and:
- A booster to renew the immunity against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis provided by the DTaP vaccine.
And it's useful to know:
- The booster shot is referred to as Tdap.
Before your child enters 7th grade, they need all of the K-12 vaccines and an additional:
And it's useful to know:
- This is listed as Meningococcal (MCV4)
When your child is 16 years old as of September 1, the required vaccine is:
- A second dose of a meningitis vaccine
And it's useful to know:
- The second dose of Meningococcal (MCV4) gives increased protection during a time when teens are at the greatest risk of contracting meningitis.
The following vaccines, while not required in Arkansas, are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
When your child is 6 months old or older, these vaccines are recommended:
- Influenza (seasonal flu)
- There is both a lot of information and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Sisterhen said, “Make sure your source of information is accurate and based on data!”
- Flu strains change every year and flu vaccines are altered to match the strain, which is why it’s important to get a flu shot every year.
When your child is 9-11 years old, these vaccines are recommended:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Evidence shows the HPV vaccine provides protection against a variety of cancers in boys and girls when given early, which is why the vaccine can be given as early as 9 years old.