Immunizations: What Does My Child Need?

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Students in the Washoe County School District headed back to school this week, and this year, there's new immunization requirements for certain grades. We asked Elaine Cudnik, APRN with Renown Pediatrics, for more information and a bit of background on the history of immunizations.

School has already started for many northern Nevada K-12 students, and with that comes the requirement of proof of immunization. Elaine Cudnik, an advanced nurse practitioner with Renown Pediatrics, joins News 4’s Best Medicine Wednesday to explain what all parents need to know.

Students in the Washoe County School District headed back to school this week, and this year, there’s new immunization requirements for certain grades. We asked Elaine Cudnik, APRN with Renown Pediatrics, for more information and a bit of background on the history of immunizations.

What are immunizations, and why are they mandated by state law?

A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against diseases, prepared from the disease itself or a synthetic substitute. Vaccines usually are administered through needle injections, but also can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Immunizations have a long history. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur developed techniques that resulted in vaccines that provided immunity from disease instead of infecting.

The preventative measures have revolutionized our capability to create immunity to serious infections that previously killed thousands and caused serious complications in even greater numbers. As a result of the advances made over the past decades, children have escaped the measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, polio, tetanus and diphtheria, along with the sometimes serious consequences these infections carry, including death.

What should parents know about immunization requirements for their children?

Nevada State Law requires that students be immunized for diptheria, tetanus and pertussis; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); varicella, unless they have had the chickenpox; hepatitis A and hepatitis B; and polio.

This includes students enrolling for the first time in a Nevada public school — children entering preschool, kindergarten or transferring from a private school.

Students entering seventh grade in the Washoe County School District are required to show proof of Tdap immunization, which provides extra protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

And new this year, Nevada will require the meningococcal vaccine in addition to Tdap for all 7th graders and new students entering grades 7-12. Students younger than 23 years old enrolling as freshmen in Nevada universities also must show proof of having received the meningococcal vaccine anytime after age 16.

RELATED: Dorm Safety: What You Need to Know About Bacterial Meningitis

Should parents have any concerns regarding their child receiving immunizations?

Due to the population immunity granted by the fact that most people do assure that their children are immunized, over the past two decades we will have prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, even with overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe for all ages, from infants to adults, some parents are worried about their young children receiving vaccines.

Vaccinations do result in minor side effects in some children. Common side effects include pain, redness, tenderness at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.

You should discuss with your healthcare provider any concerns you may have about vaccinating your child. In very rare cases such as significant allergies or defective immune systems, vaccinations may not be recommended. 

Vaccines for years have been studied for serious side effects, and scientific evidence has debunked such rumors as vaccines causing autism or SIDS. The physician responsible for the fraudulent article that suggested the autism link lost his medical license for having falsified data. 

WCSD offers exemptions for families who wish to opt out of immunizations for religious and/or medical reasons. For a religious exemption, a parent or guardian must submit a written statement to the WCSD Board of Trustees, as well as the child’s school nurse or clinical aid indicating that immunizing the student is contrary to their religious beliefs. For a medical exemption, a written statement or prescription from the child’s physician must be submitted to the board of trustees and the school nurse or clinical aid. 

If you have any questions about vaccination requirements or to find out if your child’s vaccinations are up to date, check with your child’s pediatrician and/or school.

Learn more about immunization services and clinics at Renown.org, or request an appointment onlineImmunize Nevada also provides a list of local vaccination clinics and providers.

RELATED: Back-to-School Checklist: Don’t Forget Immunizations

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