As thousands of Iowa children head back to school, their parents need to make sure those kids have up-to-date immunizations. Jenny Stiles, with the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, says there are certain required vaccinations at different grade levels and if money is an issue, there are options in most of Iowa’s 99 counties.

She says most insurance companies will cover the cost of immunizations of children. If not, the health department has a program called “Vaccine for Children” which provides free vaccines to children who aren’t able to pay, don’t have insurance, or are on Medicaid.

Stiles says you can either check with your doctor or at your county public health department to find out what vaccinations a child needs. She says many children are vaccinated at their doctor’s office, but the health department’s walk-in clinic is available weekdays. Kindergarteners should have four vaccines which cover a variety of ailments, including chicken pox; the D-Tap which covers diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; and the MMR, which deals with measles, mumps and rubella.

Middle schoolers need a T-Dap vaccine that covers tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in addition to a meningococcal vaccine to cover meningitis. Students will also need to get an updated chicken pox booster shot if they haven’t had one already.

Iowa teens who are headed off to college also need to get at least two vaccines — a meningococcal vaccine that helps prevent meningitis and a chicken pox vaccine if they haven’t had their second booster. It’s also recommended, but not required, that students would get an HPV vaccine and a flu shot.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)