Public Health Madison and Dane County: Now is the time to schedule back to school shots

Contact: Sarah Mattes, Public Health Madison & Dane County
[email protected]

Even though the new school year is still a long way off, now is the time to make sure kids are up to date on their immunizations. State law requires certain immunizations for children in schools and daycares.

Parents should first find out which immunizations their child needs. They can do this by checking with their health care provider or by going to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry for a record of their child’s immunizations at

Next, parents should make an appointment to get the immunizations their child needs. Immunizations can usually be done at any health care visit, including sports physicals, checkups or some sick visits.

It may be tempting to wait until just before school starts to schedule an appointment for immunizations, but sometimes it can take weeks or a month or more to get an appointment.

According to Sally Zirbel-Donish, Health Services Coordinator for Madison Metropolitan School District, “Those end of summer and early school year appointments become popular with lots of families, and sometimes they’re unavailable when parents call. As a result, quite often we see families scrambling in the first month of school to get their children immunized. Sometimes this means children don’t get the required immunizations in time and parents then receive legal notices telling them their child cannot return to school until they’re immunized, which can be stressful.”

It’s not just kids starting pre-K and kindergarten who need immunizations. According to Kate Louther, Immunization Program Supervisor for PHMDC, “a lot of parents don’t realize that their 6th grader needs immunizations. Students starting 6th grade are required to have a Tdap vaccine to prevent tetanus and whooping cough. It’s also recommended at this age that kids get a dose of Meningococcal vaccine to prevent meningitis, and the HPV immunization is recommended for both boys and girls, to prevent certain cancers.”

Kids heading off to college will also need some immunizations. A list of what is needed can be obtained by calling their health care provider. Influenza vaccines are also recommended for everyone 6 months and older and should be available in September.

Immunizations are safe and effective. They offer protection from 16 potentially serious diseases. When parents immunize their child, it also helps protect other people that cannot be immunized because they have weak immune systems, such as infants, older adults and those on chemotherapy. The more people immunized in a community, the less disease we see.
PHMDC offers FREE immunizations, by appointment, to children who do not have health insurance, or who are on Medical Assistance or BadgerCare. Call (608) 266-4821 to make an appointment or for questions. For more details, see:

For more detailed information on immunizations for pre-teens and teens see: