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TRENTON - With the start of the new school year approaching, the New Jersey Department of Health is encouraging parents to get the age appropriate back-to-school vaccinations for their children before the school year begins.

“August is National Immunization Month, which serves as a reminder to parents about the importance of getting their children vaccinated to protect against diseases throughout the school year,” stated Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Making sure your children are vaccinated on time not only ensures their long-term health but also their academic achievement.”

Childhood vaccines protect against 16 serious diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox) and pneumococcal disease, thereby reducing the spread of disease to others in classrooms, childcare centers and communities.

Childcare facilities are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and sneezes, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.

“We have a shared responsibility to ensure all children arrive at school healthy and ready to learn,” stated New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “We join the parents, educators and health officials throughout New Jersey as we highlight the importance of ensuring children have the appropriate vaccinations as they return to the classroom.”

As children get older, they are more likely to get certain diseases like meningococcal disease and infections that can lead to human papillomavirus (HPV) cancers. Preteens can be protected long before their risk of infection increases by getting recommended vaccines. Additionally, some childhood vaccines wear off over time, so booster shots are needed to help stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Talk to your healthcare provider routinely to assess vaccination needs. 

Wellness and sports physicals are equally essential for students heading back to school, especially for those who plan to participate in organized sports to determine disqualifying conditions and to ensure a safe playing environment. The purpose of this pre-screening is to determine physical and medical limitations including cardiovascular, neurologic, visual, orthopedic, general medical and mental health to help identify those conditions that may predispose a student to injury or sudden death. For health forms, guidelines and resources, be sure to visit your child’s school and/or township school district website.

When participating in physical activity, it is also important to be aware of the signs of a concussion. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way the brain normally works. Reported symptoms related to concussions include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and blurry vision. 

More information on concussions can be found at https://bit.ly/2MkjpMy

Information about vaccines, recommended immunization schedules for all age groups and programs that provides vaccines at no cost to children of low-income families can be found at the CDC website at https://bit.ly/2YLrznU