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It’s Time to Immunize! What You Need to Know Before School Starts Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

It’s Time to Immunize! What You Need to Know Before School Starts

August is Immunization Awareness Month in Fairfax County. Vaccines provide a power shield of protection for children and adults are they are best way to prevent many serious diseases. Join the Health Department’s Assistant Director of Patient Care Services Joanna Hemmat, who oversees the School Health Services Program, and Immunization Compliance Nurse Dorothy Randazzo on Tuesday, August 5 from 11 a.m. to noon. These experts will answer your questions about immunizations, when and where to get immunized, and what parents need to know before school starts. Learn more about the importance of protecting yourself, your family and your community by keeping up-to-date on vaccinations.

Joanna Hemmat : Good morning. Dorothy and I are excited to be here today to answer your questions about immunizations. August is National Immunization Awareness Month which is a good opportunity for us to highlight the importance of immunizations as one of the top ten public health accomplishments of the 20th Century. We encourage everyone to protect their health by keeping immunizations up to date throughout their lifetime.

Anonymous User : Will Fairfax County being giving vaccines in schools? This would be more convenient for us parents!

Joanna Hemmat : That would be convenient for parents, but with almost 188,000 students it would be difficult to implement. Ideally vaccinations should be given as part of a routine well-child visit at the student’s primary care provider. All immunizations required for school attendance can be obtained at no cost at the five Fairfax County Health Department district offices. The offices have extended hours coinciding with the start of school. For faster service, an appointment is recommended.

Elizabeth : My son is going into 10th grade this fall--is he supposed to be getting any shots? I didn't think so but thought I'd ask anyway to make sure.

Dorothy Randazzo :

Often people forget that teenagers and adults need vaccinations too!  Assuming that he is up-to-date on the immunizations required for school attendance the CDC recommends several additional vaccinations for adolescent boys. These include three doses of HPV, a booster dose of Meningococcal (if he is 16 years old) and an annual flu vaccine.

See the recommended schedule here:

Rachel : The measles cases in our area really worried me. How can I make sure my family has the right vaccinations to help protect us in the future? My husband and I can't remember if we are up to date on our shots.

Joanna Hemmat : The measles cases that we saw in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in May serve as a good reminder of why immunizations are so important because many people were potentially exposed at sites throughout the National Capital Region.

If you and your husband are not sure if you have received the recommended two doses of measles vaccine, then first you should check with your primary care doctor about how to proceed. If you were born before 1957, you can assume that you are immune; a blood test could confirm immunity.
Most people in this country are protected against measles through vaccination, but it is still common in many parts of the world, such as in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Measles is just a plane ride away. The best protection is vaccination before traveling abroad.

Learn more at

Ted : We have moved around a lot during my child's first 5 years - a lot of different pediatricians . Now she is enrolling at a Fairfax school and I'm unsure how to get all the correct immunization records compiled. Any advice?

Dorothy Randazzo :

Many Pediatric practices participate in State Immunization Registries.  You will want to contact the registries of the states you’ve lived in to see if they have your child’s consolidated immunization history. To access the registries go to:

If any of the offices you visited did not participate in their state registry you will need to contact them directly for a copy of the record.

Of course, keep a copy for your records in the future!

Katie : My daughter has had only one HPV shot a year ago but I saw that she is supposed to have three so should she still get the other two?

Joanna Hemmat : Yes, she needs three doses to achieve maximum protection from HPV infection. The second dose may be given as soon as four weeks after the first. She can receive the third dose 16 weeks after the second, as long as it’s been six months since the first dose.

Joanne K. : I'm wondering if they're making all shots with the short needles like the new one that came out with flu vaccines? That thing was a breeze! My kids HATE shots so I thought the super small needles would make it easier on them. Thanks.

Dorothy Randazzo : Generally vaccines are not administered with a short intradermal needle like the flu vaccine your child received. The length of the needle for any given vaccine depends upon where the solution needs to be absorbed. In order to produce effective antibody response many vaccines need to be given in a muscle. If tetanus vaccine is given with a needle that’s too short for example, it may not produce the correct antibody response and the individual is more likely to have a localized adverse reaction, like redness and swelling. Fortunately manufacturers have produced many combination vaccines in the last 10 years to reduce the number of shots children need.

Maria Acosta : Can my kids get multiple vaccines at the same time? (I heard that you need to get the shots weeks apart.)

Joanna Hemmat :

It’s actually best to get multiple vaccines at the same visit to minimize side effects and maximize antibody response. Delaying or withholding vaccines only increases the amount of time that children are vulnerable to diseases. When children receive their recommended vaccines, it also protects our community, especially those people who cannot be immunized (children who are too young, or those who can’t receive certain vaccines for medical reasons), and the small number of people who don’t respond to a particular vaccine. Simultaneous administration of all vaccines for which a child is eligible is very important in childhood vaccination programs because it increases the probability that a child will be fully immunized at the appropriate age.

lisa : my boy is 6 years old. he is vaccined accodding to the schedule. recently his grandma who lives with him in the same house was found hbv hbsag positive with normal liver function. (she had never been tested before). does my son need a booster for hbv? thanks!

Dorothy Randazzo :

If your son has had three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine according to the recommended schedule he is protected against Hepatitis B infection and a booster dose is not recommended.

Anonymous User : who decides which vaccines kids need for school? How do they know what you need and don't need?

Dorothy Randazzo : The vaccines that are required for school entrance are determined by individual state codes based on recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. For information about what’s required in Fairfax County go to

Anonymous User : I don't have my son's yellow card but I know he got a second tdap. Do I have to get it again? How can I prove he got it if I lost the yellow card?

Joanna Hemmat :

If you are able to contact the healthcare provider who gave him the vaccine, they should have a record of his receiving the second Tdap vaccine. You can also try to search the database of the immunization registry in the state he received the vaccine at: Not all doctors and clinics participate in the registries, but it’s worth a try.

Amy : Why do school students have to get all of the vaccines if they are not the only ones in the school? Shouldn't the teachers be required to get vaccinated too?

Dorothy Randazzo : Individual school districts have policies regarding vaccinations required for employment.  It's important to remember that adults need immunizations too. The CDC recommends that all individuals age 6 months and over receive an annual flu vaccine. All adults should also receive one Tdap vaccine to protect small children from pertussis (whopping cough), which is on the rise. Other immunizations are recommended depending on adults’ age and health conditions. I recommend that adults review their immunization status with their health care provider. View the recommended schedule here;

Joanna Hemmat :

We have run out of time for today’s chat. Thank you to all who submitted questions. I’d like to close by encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated now instead of waiting until just before school starts. Required school vaccines are available at your pediatrician’s office or at the Fairfax County Health Department clinics. All school required vaccines are offered free at the Health Department. We encourage parents to call one of our 5 district offices to make an appointment to reduce your wait time at the clinic. Immunizations are available during regular Health Department clinic hours. In addition, the Health Department is offering extended hours on 3 days:

Tuesday, August 26 – 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday, August 29 – 7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Tuesday, September 2 – 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Always bring your child’s current immunization history with you to all appointments with your doctor or the Health Department.

Our clinic locations, phone number, and hours of operation are posted on our website: