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School Starts Soon—Is Your Child Fully Vaccinated?

Two female students in front of chalkboardSchool-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines. CDC has online resources and tools to help parents and doctors make sure all kids are up to date on recommended vaccines and protected from serious diseases.

Make sure your children are up-to-date on vaccines before sending them back to school. School-age children, from preschoolers, to middle schoolers, to college students, need vaccines. Use CDC’s online resources and tools to check the recommended vaccines for your children. Get your children to the doctor if you discover they need vaccines to protect them against serious diseases.

What All Parents Need To Know

Making sure that children of all ages receive all their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to ensure your children's long-term health—as well as the health of friends, classmates, and others in your community.

To keep children in schools healthy, your state may require children going to school to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough). If you're unsure of your state's school requirements, now is the time to check with your child's doctor, your child's school, or your health department. That way, you can get your child any vaccines he needs before the back-to-school rush.

Disease Outbreaks Still Happen

It's true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines. However, cases and outbreaks still happen. This year, the United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases. From January 1 to August 1, 2014, there have been 593 cases of measles reported in the United States. And so far, there have been 18 outbreaks of this disease. From January 1–June 16, 2014, almost 10,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported to CDC by 50 states and Washington, D.C. These numbers represent a 24% increase compared with the same time period in 2013.

Outbreaks of whooping cough at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades. Those who are vaccinated against whooping cough but still get the disease are much more likely to have a mild illness compared to those who never received the vaccine.

Making sure your children stay up to date with vaccinations is the best way to protect your communities and schools from outbreaks that can cause unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

Group of students getting on bus

Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides children with the best protection possible.

Vaccines for Your Young Children (Newborns through 6 years old)

During the early years of life, your children need vaccines to protect them from 14 diseases that can be serious, even life-threatening. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children increase the risk of disease not only for their own children, but also for other children and adults throughout the entire community. For example, vulnerable newborns too young to have received the maximum protection from the recommended doses of vaccines or people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients, are also at higher risk of disease.

Flu vaccines are recommended for kids in preschool and elementary school to help keep them healthy. In fact, all children 6 months and older should get flu vaccines. Getting all of your children vaccinated—as well as other family members and caregivers—can help protect infants younger than 6 months old. Ask your family's doctor or nurse about getting flu shots or the nasal spray to protect against flu.

Parents can find out what vaccines their children need and when the doses should be given by reviewing CDC's recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule.

Vaccines for Your Preteens and Teens (7 years old through 18 years old)

Preteens and teens need vaccines, too! As kids get older, they are still at risk for certain diseases. Before heading back to school, three vaccines are recommend for 11-12 year olds—HPV, Tdap, and meningococcal conjugate vaccine—for continued protection.

HPV vaccine [213 KB] is important because it can prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life. For other diseases, like whooping cough, the protection from vaccine doses received in childhood fades over time. That's why 11–12 year-olds are also recommended to get the booster shot called Tdap to help protect them from whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine helps prevent two of the three most common causes of meningococcal disease, which can be very serious—even life-threatening.

It's important to know that flu can be serious, even for healthy, young people. Preteens and teens are no exception. So older kids should get at least one flu vaccine (the shot or nasal spray for healthy kids) every year.

To learn more about vaccines for your preteens and teens, talk to your child’s healthcare provider or visit the preteen and teen vaccine pages. CDC provides a recommended immunization schedule for people ages 7 through 18 years for parents and doctors to follow to protect preteens and teens from vaccine-preventable disease. If your preteens or teens haven't already gotten their vaccines, you should get them caught up as soon as possible.

It's Not Too Late

Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides children with the best protection possible. If a child misses a shot, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to catch up. To help, CDC and colleagues at Georgia Tech have developed the Catch-Up Immunization Scheduler, an online tool that shows parents and healthcare providers the best options for getting children 6 years of age and younger back on schedule.

Or, parents and healthcare providers can use the Adolescent Immunization Scheduler to determine what vaccines are needed for children 7 through 18 years of age.


Last syndicated: September 17, 2014
This content is brought to you by: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)