As families shop for folders, pens, backpacks and calculators, they should remember another back-to-school essential: vaccinations.
Central Ohio students will return to school in mid- to late August with a laundry list of required inoculations: MMR (mumps, measles and rubella), chicken pox, polio, hepatitis B and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).
"Right now is the time to get the vaccines," said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health. "You don't want to wait until you're getting ready to leave for school."
Children in child care, or who attend Head Start or preschool programs, also must get an influenza shot, according to state guidelines.
Exceptions to the vaccination requirements are allowed for medical reasons as well as religious and other objections.
State law does not mandate college students get vaccinations but requires the disclosure of vaccination status for hepatitis B, HPV (human papilloma virus), influenza, meningococcal disease (meningitis) and Tdap.
However, colleges and universities have their own rules on such matters, said Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health.
Regardless of individual policies, young adults should consider getting the recommended vaccinations so they "can enjoy their school year."
"It's no fun being sick in a dorm room," Amato said. "So that doesn't happen, you're better protected if you're up-to-date on your vaccinations."
Health officials have pointed to the recent mumps outbreak as evidence of why immunizations are important.
Columbus first identified two cases of mumps locally in February, and in early March started to identify a growing number of individuals with ties to Ohio State University.
The community outbreak has grown to include 469 cases, 251 linked to the university. At its peak, it was sickening 10 people a day. Now it's down to three to five cases a week. Between July 2 and July 30, 16 cases were reported.
"We're significantly trending down," Rodriguez said. "That being said, we only usually see one case a year."