Common Vaccine Requirements for School

7 Childhood Vaccines Every Parent Should Know About

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School vaccine policies can change from time to time, especially when a new vaccine makes a debut. This happened when the chickenpox booster shot was introduced in 2006 and when new vaccines for DTaP and meningococcal meningitis were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020.

The approval of a vaccine by the FDA doesn't mean that it will automatically be added to the list of vaccines required for school (or covered by insurance, for that matter). In many cases, it will, but it doesn't hurt to check just to be sure.

Children raising their hands in a classroom
Tetra Images / Jamie Grill / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images 

If a vaccine is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—a group of experts within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—it is automatically included as an Essential Health Benefit (EHB) under the Affordable Care Act and covered by most insurance.

DTaP Vaccine

DTaP is a combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). Most children will have gotten five doses by the time they start school, including one after their fourth birthday.

DTaP vaccines are delivered by intramuscular injection (into a large muscle). There are six licensed for use by the FDA:

  • Daptacel
  • Infanrix
  • Kinrix
  • Pediarix
  • Pentacel
  • Quadracel
  • Vaxelis

A tetanus booster is required for children between the ages of 11 and 12. In addition, the Tdap vaccine—known by the brand names Adacel and Boostrix—is recommended for teens and adults to protect against pertussis.

MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine covers three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). Two doses are usually required by the time a child is starting school. The typical schedule is one shot at age 1 and the second dose between ages 4 and 6.

There are two MMR vaccines approved for use in the United States (M-M-R II, Priorix). Both are live attenuated vaccines delivered by subcutaneous injection (beneath the skin).

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 but has since begun to reemerge in local and regional outbreaks due to the avoidance of vaccination in people swayed by the anti-vaccine movement.

Inactivated Polio Vaccine

The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is a killed (inactivated) vaccine use to prevent polio. Most children will have had four or five doses by the time they start school, including one after their fourth birthday—just in time for kindergarten.

In the United States, the vaccine is known by the brand name Ipol. It is delivered either by intramuscular or subcutaneous injection.

Varicella Vaccine

The varicella vaccine provides protection from chickenpox. If your child hasn't had chickenpox, they will need the vaccine to attend school. They will also be required to get a booster shot between the ages of 4 and 6.

There is one varicella vaccine approved by the FDA called Varivax. It is a live attenuated vaccine delivered by subcutaneous injection.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine provides protection against the hepatitis B virus (HBV), likely for a lifetime. It is given in a series of three shots beginning at infancy. Older children have usually had all three by age 12.

There are three hepatitis vaccines licensed by the FDA that are used in specific age groups:

  • Engerix (birth to 19 years)
  • Heplisav-B (18 years and over)
  • Recombivax (birth to 19 years)

Each vaccine, delivered by intramuscular injection, is classified as a recombinant adjuvanted vaccine (meaning it involves DNA coding and the use of a substance, called an adjuvant, that provokes an immune response).

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 5.3% of men and 3.4% of women in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis B. This infection can cause long-term liver injury, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

All infants and toddlers routinely get a hepatitis A vaccine to protect against the hepatitis A virus (HAV). In many parts of the United States, hepatitis A vaccination is required for young children to attend preschool. The vaccine is given in two doses at least six months apart.

There are two inactivated vaccines, delivered by intramuscular injection, that are approved to prevent hepatitis A in the United States:

  • Havrix
  • Vaqta

Meningococcal Vaccine

All 11- to 12 year-olds should be vaccinated with a single dose of a quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which is used to protect against a potentially deadly form of bacterial meningitis. Children need a second shot at age 16 so they remain protected when they are at the highest risk of infection (during their college years).

There are four FDA-licensed meningococcal vaccines, delivered by intramuscular injection, that are approved for use in different age groups:

  • Bexsero (10 to 25 years)
  • Menactra (ages 9 months to 55 years)
  • Menveo (ages 2 months to 55 years)
  • Trumenba (10 to 25 years)

Bexsero and Trumemba are both recombinant adjuvanted vaccines. Menactra and Menveo are inactivated vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccines

The CDC added COVID-19 vaccination to its recommended immunization schedules for children and adults in 2023. However, these are not requirements and individual states set their own school vaccine requirements for students and faculty.

A Word From Verywell

It is important to check with your pediatrician to ensure that your child is up-to-date with their vaccines, including those that may not be on the school's required list.

An example includes the Gardasil-9 vaccine used to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV)—a virus linked to cervical cancer and anal cancer in adults. Though Gardasil-9 is on the ACIP recommended list, some schools have been known to exclude it because HPV is sexually transmitted.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. Preventive services covered by private health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines. Updated January 22, 2020.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tetanus vaccination.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) VIS.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination: Information for healthcare providers.

  6. Gastanaduy PA, Banerjee E, DeBolt C, et al. Public health responses during measles outbreaks in elimination settings: Strategies and challenges. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2018;14(9):2222–38. doi:10.1080/21645515.2018.1474310

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Polio VIS.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. vaccine names.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Varicella vaccination information for healthcare professionals.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B vaccination: Information for healthcare providers.

  11. National Center on Health Statistics. Prevalence and trends in hepatitis B virus infection in the United States, 2015–2018.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis A VIS.

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal vaccination.

  14. Wodi AP, Murthy N, McNally V, Cineas S, Ault K. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger - United States, 2023MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2023;72(6):137-140. Published 2023 Feb 10. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7206a1

  15. Barraza L, Weidenaar K, Campos-Outcalt D, Yang YT. Human papillomavirus and mandatory immunization laws: What can we learn from early mandates?. Public Health Rep. 2016 Sep-Oct;131(5):728-31. doi:10.1177/0033354916663184

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.