The new school year is almost here, but will your child be ready? Besides shopping for supplies, the back-to-school checklist should include making sure your child has an up-to-date immunizations record. The Louisiana Department of Health reminds parents that ensuring children have received their necessary vaccinations is not only important, it's the law.

"As a parent of two children who are about to start a new school year, I want remind other parents it's important to own your family's health and make sure your kids have gotten the shots they need," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "Getting immunizations is a simple process with big rewards. These vaccines help keep children healthy, so they can spend more days in the classroom learning and out of the doctor's office."

Louisiana law requires children age four or older who are entering kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, daycare or Head Start programs this year must have proof they have received a booster dose of Poliovirus vaccine (IPV), two doses of Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine (MMR), three doses of Hepatitis vaccine (HBV), two doses of Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine (Var) and a booster dose of Diphtheria Tetanus Acellular Pertussis vaccine (DtaP).

Children who are 11 or older and are entering the sixth grade this year must have proof they have received all of the age-appropriate immunizations listed above, and at this age, children also need proof of receiving the meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine and the Tetanus Diphtheria Acellular Pertussis vaccine (Tdap).

"When we don't vaccinate, we leave the door open for the return of diseases such as measles and whooping cough, which continue to be a threat to babies, children and adults in the United States," said LDH Immunization Medical Director Dr. Frank Welch. "School vaccination laws have helped eliminate major vaccine-preventable diseases. So, avoid the rush and take the time now to schedule your children for their back-to-school vaccinations."

Vaccines have proven safe and effective in preventing illness and death from many infectious diseases. Having kids vaccinated keeps them healthy and in school, protects other children and family members from getting sick, and allows children to lead longer, more productive lives.

Parents should contact their child's doctor to have children vaccinated and receive copies of their immunization records. If parents cannot get these through the child's doctor, they can obtain vaccinations and immunization records at a parish health unit or a Federally Qualified Health Center. View LDH's interactive parish map to find a parish health unit in your area. If parents are not able to submit proof of updated immunizations, their children will need to be re-vaccinated to get an updated immunization record.