Are you heading out to start back-to-school shopping for your kids? As you’re picking up notebooks, pencils, backpacks and the like, make sure your children are immunized.

That’s the message from state health officials as the back-to-school season gets underway.

“It’s important for parents to understand that immunizations are important not only for their own children, but for other children in the school, the staff, their family and the community,” said Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy State Health Commissioner. “Parents should not only be thinking about their school-aged children, but also the infants and toddlers at home, because those children also need their vaccines at certain ages. The younger children are particularly at risk of getting much more serious illnesses from some of these diseases that vaccines can prevent.”

“Children are required to have the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, their diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, haemophilus influenza type b vaccine as well as the annual influenza vaccine,” said Brito. “Our goal is to have as many children in the state immunized and for them to get the full series of immunizations that are required. Without that full series, you’re not as protected against diseases that can have some serious consequences. It depends on when you start getting vaccines, but for instance that diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine requires four or five doses depending on when you start.”

“Parents that don’t have their children immunized are really putting their children at risk for developing serious illnesses, but they’re also putting many others at risk,” said Brito. “August is National Immunization Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time to get children vaccinated in time for the start of school. There are also some adult vaccines that parents should think about as well.”

For more information on required immunizations, visit the NJ Health Department website.