This 2006 photograph showed a nurse in the process of administering an intramuscular vaccination to an adolescent girl whose sister, mother, and grandmother watched from the background.
This 2006 photograph showed a nurse in the process of administering an intramuscular vaccination to an adolescent girl whose sister, mother, and grandmother watched from the background. CDC/ Judy Schmidt

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By Jared Weber

With the first day of class for North Carolina Public Schools just three weeks away, back-to-school season has already begun for many parents. State health officials are urging families to make immunization part of their preparations.

“Vaccination is the best and safest way to protect our kids from potentially life-threatening diseases,” said Kelly Kimple, chief of the Division of Public Health’s Women’s and Children’s Health Section in the Department of Health and Human Services. “This is a great time, with all the excitement of getting ready for school, to think about that, as well as with the upcoming flu season.”

In order to enroll in a North Carolina public school, children must be up-to-date with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and Tdap, which works against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

A booster dose is required for both of these vaccinations at some point in a child’s teen years.

While not mandatory for school entry, the state also recommends that students be up-to-date on human papillomavirus and influenza vaccines.

Last year’s flu claimed the lives of 389 North Carolinians, according to a report from DHHS. The number far exceeded the 218 deaths recorded by state officials in the 2016-2017 flu season.

“Every flu season, we need to be approaching knowing that the flu can be a potentially devastating illness,” Kimple said. “We had child deaths last year, along with adult deaths, so the best thing to do to protect oneself is to get the flu shot.”

In a DHHS press release issued July 19, North Carolina Pediatric Society President Scott St. Clair urged advocated for parents to check up on vaccinations at any of their children’s upcoming medical appointments.

“You can use any health care visit, including for sports or camp physicals, checkups and sick visits to have your preteen or teen vaccinated,” St. Clair said in the press release. “We suggest keeping a conversation open with your health care professional to know what vaccinations are due and when they should be given.”

Jared Weber

Jared Weber is NC Health News' 2018 legislative intern. He is a rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill where he's majoring in journalism and global studies with a minor in Spanish.