Four questions about back-to-school vaccinations in Georgia

Even before thinking about shopping for that new school backpack for next year, parents need to make sure their children are up to date on vaccinations.

This is particularly important for first-time students or students moving from another location.

Any child entering daycare, Head Start, pre-K/kindergarten, middle school, college or enrolling in a Georgia school for the first time, must have a a completed Certificate of Immunization signed by a health-care provider to enroll.

There are a range of vaccinations that must be completed to protect against ailments, from chickenpox and whooping cough to meningitis.

Entrance requirements can vary by school system. Some won’t allow registration until a certificate is presented. Others will give a few weeks leeway to produce it. It’s best to have it early.

1. Are school vaccinations mandatory?

Georgia law requires school vaccinations for attendance unless a parent or guardian provides a religious or temporary medical exemption form.

For religious exemptions, the child must have a notarized affidavit stating that vaccinations are against the family’s religious beliefs.

A temporary medical exemption can be granted for up to one year for specific vaccines. This must be marked and signed by a child’s private physician, advanced practice registered nurse or physician assistant on the Certificate of Immunization.

2. What if my child is not vaccinated?

In the event of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak, such as chickenpox, students with exemptions will not be able to attend school until the outbreak is contained or the child is vaccinated.

See how vaccinations prevent disease outbreaks in this AJC video.

3. Are school vaccinations free? How much do they cost? 

Most health insurance plans cover the required immunizations.

For children who are Medicaid-eligible, underinsured or uninsured, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program offers shots at no or low cost through enrolled providers. For more information, contact the Georgia Immunization Program at 404-657-3158.

4. Where can I get immunizations for my child?

Your family physician or pediatrician

Local pharmacies

County public health departments typically provide immunizations and other health screenings with extended hours in the weeks before school begins.

In other school news, here is how to register in your county:

Atlanta Public Schools registration

Cobb County Schools registration

DeKalb County Schools registration

Fulton County Schools registration

Gwinnett County Schools registration