The school bells will ring in about a week for the first day of classes in Hamilton County, and health officials say if your child does not get his or her shots updated in time, they may not be allowed to attend school.  

"We want Tennessee children to be in school, learning in a safe and healthy environment, so it's extremely important students are vaccinated against diseases that can spread easily in the classroom or elsewhere," TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan said. "I encourage parents and caregivers to protect their students, their families and those around them by getting the vaccines they need to stay healthy."

The clock is ticking, summer is quickly winding down and soon students will be getting up for school.

"We're heading close into that back to school time, and the sooner parents can bring in their kids in the better," Connie Buecker said.

If you haven't done so already, now is the time to check your child's shot record to make sure it's updated.

"There are laws in Tennessee that say kids have to have certain vaccines to go to school. Vaccines today are a very important part of growing up healthy," Buecker said.

Connie Buecker, with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, along with the Tennessee Department of Health wants to remind families of the importance of protecting kids from diseases that can spread in the classroom.

"Kids entering kindergarten for the first time, there's a lot of viruses that gets passed around that we have no protection for," she explained.

For the kiddos new to the classroom, preschoolers and kindergarteners must complete the official Tennessee Immunization Certificate.

In Tennessee, children enrolling in school for the first time and all children going into seventh grade must provide schools with a state immunization certificate before classes start as proof they have had all the required immunizations. Additional immunizations are required for students at Tennessee colleges and universities.

"We strongly urge parents to be sure their children receive all recommended vaccines on the immunization schedule. Certain vaccines are also required for school because they help keep children safe in the classroom and on the playground," Kelly Moore, MD, MPH, director of the Tennessee Immunization Program, said. "Take this opportunity to talk with your health care provider to be sure your child is fully immunized, and make appointments now so your child won't miss school because he or she hasn't had needed vaccines."

"By the time they go to school they should've had vaccines against Hepatitis A and B and against Chicken Pox, and Measles, Mumps, and Rubella and mostly were concerned about Tetanus, Diphtheria," Buecker added.

The requirements can vary from year to year for private and public schools, daycares and colleges.

Regardless of your student's age, health officials say immunizations can help keep children healthy so they can focus on learning in the classroom.

Immunizations required for school are readily available from most healthcare providers across the state, including county health departments. Children younger than age 19 may be eligible for free vaccines if they have no insurance, are enrolled in TennCare, have private insurance that does not cover vaccines or are American Indian or Alaska Native.

Local schools and school districts can provide information about when and how immunization certificates need to be provided. Health officials do not want costs to be a barrier for students to receive immunizations. Many counties offer low cost or free vaccines for families that qualify. You should contact your local health department if you need assistance.

Requirements for school vaccinations in Tennessee:

  • Kindergarteners and other children enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time must provide schools with a complete, official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes begin. The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state's Immunization Information System. 
  • All current students entering seventh grade are required to give the school a limited official Tennessee Immunization Certificate showing they have had a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The HPV cancer vaccine and first meningococcal meningitis vaccine are recommended at this age and can be given at the same time as the required Tdap booster. 
  • Immunization requirements for college entry vary by institution, but teens who have had all recommended vaccines including their meningitis booster shot after they turn 16 will be sure to have met any college's requirements.

Requirements for school vaccinations in Georgia:

  • Students entering a Georgia school for the first time – no matter what the grade level –  must have a completed Certificate of Vision, Hearing, Dental, and Nutrition screening form. "First time" means never enrolled in a Georgia school before at any time in their lives.
  • In addition, children born on or after January 1, 2002, who are attending seventh grade and new entrants into Georgia schools in grades 8 through 12 must have received one dose of Tdap vaccine and one dose of meningococcal vaccine. ("New entrant" means any child entering any school in Georgia for the first time or entering after having been absent from a Georgia school for more than 12 months or one school year).
  • Also, it is recommended that all kids who are 11 or 12 years old get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine. HPV vaccine protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus.