ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — If your child is heading back to school in Virginia in the next month, there’s a list of required immunizations they must get before stepping into the classroom.

Since 2015, the Commonwealth has seen a decline in reported immunizations. The Virginia Department of Health shows public and private kindergarten results have dropped over the last five years.

“When do you have a decline in the immunization rates, we definitely have the concern about vaccine-preventable disease increasing,” said Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts’ nurse manager, Mary Kate Bowser. 

The U.S. has already seen that happen with the first case of polio reported in nearly a decade.

“It’s so easy to forget that less than a century ago, Virginia was one of the hubs of polio,” said Carilion Children’s Hospital’s chief of pediatrics, Dr. Christopher Pierce. “Wytheville down the road was essentially shut down almost just because it was a hotbed of polio.”

“There’s a reason we have the immunizations to prevent these diseases, because the outcomes and consequences of getting these diseases can be pretty severe,” Bowser told WFXR News.

That’s why Virginia has a timeline of at least 10 required vaccines before going to school. That includes one added in July 2021 requiring kids to get at least one of two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine by 12 months old.

“For us, this is particularly timely due to the hepatitis A outbreak we have going on,” said Bowser. 

However, healthcare providers have known over the years, that parents are hesitant because vaccines have become controversial and politicized. According to Pierce, that hurts.

“The only word I can give you is painful. It’s unfortunate that it falls into an arena of maybe political, falls into an arena of misinformation,” Pierce told WFXR News. “There’s so much of what we have right now. Technology can spread misinformation, you can get on the internet and look at anything. The problem is, is it valid? Does it really mean anything? Is it truthful?”

Bowser encourages you to research credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if you’re unsure. She also reminds parents that vaccinating your childred does more than just keep them healthy.

“Those of us that are able to get vaccinated should so not only can we protect our health, but we can protect the health of our entire community,” she said.

You can submit a notarized certificate of religious exemption for immunization or a medical exemption through documented proof from a physician.

For more information about back-to-school vaccination requirements in Virginia, check out the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) website.