Will your child be entering kindergarten this year? Or will she be changing schools or school districts? If so, you should know that Vermont requires childhood vaccines be in order and up to date.

In an effort to curb the spread of preventable diseases, the Vermont legislature recently passed a bill  that requires common childhood vaccines for young people in both public and private schools. The new law has been in effect since September, 2016 and provides exceptions for medical or religious reasons.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, students must provide documentation for a series of vaccines:

For students entering kindergarten:

  • 5 doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine
  • 4 doses of polio vaccine
  • 2 doses of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine
  • 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine
  • 2 doses of chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. (If the student has previously had chickenpox disease no vaccine or exemption is needed. Parents must submit documentation or sign the Health Department form.)

For students entering seventh grade:

  • All of the vaccines listed above and
  • One dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine
  • For boarding students, one dose of meningococcal vaccine

These requirements also apply to students in any grade entering a new school from outside of their previous school district.

The decrease of childhood illnesses over the past twenty five years can be directly attributed to the increased availability of vaccines. Hesitancy can be a normal reaction for parents. Often, they have never heard of a child suffering from these diseases. Others worry about the side effects of the vaccines.  However, because the large majority of the population chooses to vaccinate their child, serious diseases been almost nonexistent.  However, for vaccines to protect all children, the vast majority must vaccinated.

For pediatricians who trained before these vaccines were available, it is sometimes hard to believe that anyone would not vaccinate his or her child. We watched children die from these diseases, and often had to tell parents: “Your child has meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. There is a chance of brain damage, deafness, seizures, and death.” The benefits of vaccines are literally life-saving.

Before a vaccine was developed, even chicken pox, a common childhood illness, caused thousands of children and adults a year to get sick enough to be in the hospital. And about 100 people died from it annually. Because this did not usually make it into the news, parents did not worry. When the chicken pox vaccine came out, the numbers of people dying from the disease dropped considerably.

I want to reassure all parents who are now starting to catch up on their children’s shots that it is so much safer to get the shots than it is to risk getting the actual diseases. Many reputable studies have shown the benefits for children who receive vaccines.

I am grateful to not have to be telling parents bad news so often.

If you want more information on these diseases and how safe vaccines are, visit the CDC’s web page on vaccines.

In addition, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia developed a detailed site dedicated to reliable information on vaccines for parents. You can also download their app for relevant vaccine info.

Valerie Rooney, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and former member of the BMH medical staff.