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Back to School—Is Your Child Fully Vaccinated?

As you help your kids get ready for school, make sure they're fully vaccinated.

Your state may require children entering school to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as pertussis. If you're unsure of your state's school requirements, check with your child's doctor, your child's school, or your health department.

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

It's true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines. However, outbreaks still happen. For example, preliminary data showed more than 21,000 cases of "whooping cough" (pertussis) in this country in 2010. Twenty-six deaths were reported – 22 of these deaths in the U.S were in children younger than 1 year old. Additionally, from January 1 to May 20, 2011, there were 118 cases of measles reported in the United States--- more than any year since 1996. Measles comes into the United States from countries where the disease still circulates, including many European countries. Measles spreads easily and it can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. Young children are at highest risk for serious complications from measles.

Making sure children stay up-to-date with vaccinations is the best way to make sure our communities and schools do not see other outbreaks, with more unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

Children Birth-6 years

Photo: A child playingwith block letters.During the early years of life, children are recommended to get vaccines to protect them from 14 diseases that can be serious, even life-threatening. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their own children increase the risk of disease not only for their 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 pre-school 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 – also 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 them against flu.

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

Children and Teens 7-18 years

Photo: A girl holding booksOlder children need vaccines, too! Of course, everyone older than 6 months of age is recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccination, and older children are no exception! It's important to know that flu can be serious, even for healthy young people. So older kids should get at least one flu shot every year.

As kids get older, they are more at risk for catching diseases, like meningococcal meningitis, so they need protection that vaccines provide. The recommended immunization schedule is regularly updated to include new vaccines and reflect current research. So, it has probably changed since your child was first immunized. Specific vaccines, like HPV, are recommended to be given during the preteen (11-12) years and teen (13-18) years. If kids don't get these vaccines on time, they should get caught up as soon as possible.

For other diseases, like whooping cough, the protection from vaccine doses received in childhood wears off over time. That's why 11- and 12-year-olds are also recommended to get the booster shot called Tdap. Teens—and adults, too—who have not gotten Tdap should get this booster as soon as possible.  Tdap is a version of the DTaP vaccine given to infants and young children.

CDC provides an immunization schedule for people ages 7 through 18 years for parents and doctors to protect children and teens from vaccine-preventable disease.

It's Not Too Late

Graphic: Catch-up immunization scheduler for children six year and younger. 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.

Graphic: Adolescent immunization scheduler. For children 7 through 18 years of age.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.

These easy–to–use tools are accessible online.


More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

Last syndicated: August 14, 2012
This content is brought to you by: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)