Do Not Throw Away Your Shot

Everything You Need to Know About Back-to-School Vaccines

What the vaccines do and where to get them.

By Catherine Wendlandt August 15, 2018

Last month, Houstonia reported that Harris County has the seventh highest vaccination opt-out rate in the U.S. While a parent can choose to opt-out of immunizing their children for religious or philosophical reasons, the state of Texas requires seven different vaccines for school-aged children. The vaccinations are spread out over the course of the child’s life, and aid in both preventing the kid from getting the disease as well as from spreading it to others. Here is a complete guide to the required vaccines and where to get them in the Houston area.

The Seven Required Vaccines (And Why to Get Them):

1. The T-DAP vaccine 

  • It fights: Three different bacterial diseases: Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis.
  • When should my child receive it? For children in grades K through 5, five doses are required with one administered on or after the child’s fourth birthday. If the fourth birthday shot was the fourth dose, then a fifth isn’t required. Seventh-graders need a booster shot if it’s been at least five years since their last one. Students in 8th through 12th grade need a booster if it’s been at least 10 years since their last shot.
  • Dangers of these diseases: They are all highly contagious and can lead to severe complications or death. 

2. The Meningococcal vaccine 

  • It fights: The Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, which causes meningococcal diseases, such a meningitis, spinal meningitis and septicemia (Meningococcemia).
  • When should my child receive it? Texas only requires one dose on or after the child’s 11 birthday, but the CDC suggests a booster at age 16.
  • Dangers of the disease: With treatment, about 10 to 15 percent of those with meningococcal disease will die, according to the CDC, and about 11 to 19 percent of survivors will have long-term disabilities, such as brain damage or loss of limbs.

3. The Hepatitis A vaccine 

  • It fights: The Hepatitis A virus, which causes severe liver inflammation. 
  • When should my child receive it? For students in grades K through 9, two doses of the vaccine are required, with the first administered on or after the child’s first birthday.
  • Dangers of the disease: It can last from a few weeks to several months. Most people recover with no lasting damage, but it can kill you.

4. The Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine 

  • It fights: Chickenpox, a viral disease characterized by a rash of itchy blisters all over the body.
  • When should my child receive it? Two doses of the vaccine are required for all students, with the first administered on or after the child’s first birthday.
  • Dangers of the disease: It isn’t typically dangerous for healthy people, but it can lead to skin infections, dehydration, pneumonia, brain inflammation or infection, bleeding problems or sepsis for pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems.

5. The MMR vaccine 

  • It fights: Measles, mumps, and rubella
  • When should my child receive it? The state requires two doses, with the first administered on or after the child’s first birthday.
  • Dangers of the diseases: You can go deaf with measles, and it can cause brain swelling and early delivery for pregnant women; Mumps can also cause you to go deaf, and you may develop meningitis, among other things; rubella (aka German measles) is most dangerous for unvaccinated pregnant women since it can cause miscarriages, developmental issues and various other problems. 

6. The Polio vaccine 

  • It fights: The virus that causes polio, a paralytic disease.
  • When should my child receive it? The state requires four doses, with the fourth one received on or after the child’s fourth birthday.
  • Dangers of the disease: About 2 to 10 percent of people with paralysis die because the paralysis impacts their breathing, according to the CDC. Additionally, children who appear to recover from polio can develop new muscle pain, weakness, or paralysis as adults.

7. The Hepatitis B vaccine 

  • It fights: The Hepatitis B virus, which causes an acute or chronic liver inflammatory disease.
  • When should my child receive it? The state requires three doses for children ages 11 to 15, or two doses if they received the adult vaccine. The CDC also suggests a dose shortly after birth.
  • Dangers of the disease: There is no cure. If the disease remains active for longer than six months, then it becomes chronic Hepatitis B which can cause serious health problems, such as liver failure or liver cancer. About 6 to 10 percent of older children and adults and 90 percent of unimmunized babies with the virus will develop the chronic disease.

Where to Get the Kids Vaccinated:

Children who qualify for the Vaccines for Children/Texas Vaccines for Children programs can be eligible for free vaccinations. If your child qualifies to get free shots (find out here) you can ask your regular pediatrician if she is participating or go hit up these options to get your kids thoroughly vaccinated:

The Houston Health Department has four different clinics—including the Northside Health Center, La Nueva Casa de Amigos Health Center, Sharpstown Health Services, and the Sunnyside Health Center—where kids can get vaccinated. Just walk in at either 7:30 a.m. or noon Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. Fridays. You’ll either pay just $15 per child for as many vaccinations they need, or the shots will be free if the kids have Medicaid or qualify for the Vaccines for Children program.

The Harris County Public Health Department has three walk-in additional clinics, located in Humble, Baytown and Pasadena, and each one offers free vaccinations for children who qualify for VFC.

Or your kids can get their shots for free. The Christus Foundation is partnering with the Morales Foundation for the Back to School Bash 2018 on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Morales Funeral Home (2901 Canal Street). Uninsured and underinsured Children qualify for free vaccines if they have Medicaid or are Medicaid-eligible, or are American Indian or Native Alaskan. CHIP will not be accepted.

And if Saturday doesn’t work for you, the Children’s Museum of Houston is partnering with with the Ronald McDonald House and Texas Children’s Hospital to administer free vaccines to the first 150 kids who come between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. each Thursday in August to family night at the museum, located at 1500 Binz Street in Houston. Children ages 6 weeks to 18 years old must qualify for VFC and must bring their immunization records with them.

There are also mobile vaccination options, including the Harris Health System Troubleshooters Immunizations Program, which offers free vaccinations to children who qualify for VFC across the county. They will be showing up in different locations all month.

Additionally, two Texas Children’s Hospital mobile clinics, the SuperKids Mobile Clinic and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, will be in different spots across Harris County throughout August. Vaccinations are free for children who qualify for VFC.