The start of the new school year is coming up fast. Along with school supplies and new clothes, it's time to double check that your child's immunizations are up-to-date.

Immunization gives parents the safe, proven way to protect their children from 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before they turn 2. In addition, middle and high schoolers need vaccines, too. As kids get older, they are still at risk for certain diseases. Before heading back to school, three vaccines are recommended for 11-12 year-olds; HPV, Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis), and MCV4 (meningococcal vaccine); for continued protection.

A new South Dakota law requires all incoming 6th graders to have one dose of Tdap vaccine and one dose of MCV4. The requirements apply only for 6th grade entry and transfer students 6th to 12th grade. See your health provider to determine your child’s immunization status

To raise awareness of the importance of immunizations for a healthy start and throughout our lives – and to make sure children are protected with all the vaccines they need – the South Dakota Department of Health is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

“Whether it’s whooping cough or measles, children who don’t get recommended vaccines are at risk of getting the disease and of having a severe case,” said Tim Heath, immunization coordinator for the department. “Every dose of every vaccine is important to protect your children and others in the community from infectious diseases. Talk to your doctor to make sure your children are up to date on all the vaccines they need.”

Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox. Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for disease and can also spread diseases to others in their family and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.

To find out more about the recommended immunization schedule contact the Department of Health’s immunization program 1-800-738-2301 or see www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

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