National Immunization Awareness Month

Ready For School

Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records.

Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.

Additionally, states may require children who are entering child care or school to be vaccinated against certain diseases. Colleges and universities may have their own requirements, especially for students living in a dormitory. Parents should check with their child’s doctor, school or the local health department to learn about the requirements in their state or county.

Vaccinating according to the recommended immunization schedule provides your child with the best protection against preventable diseases.

  • Between the time your child is born and when they go off to college, they’ll get vaccines to protect against a number of serious diseases.
  • Some children at your child care center may be too young to get certain vaccines, and are therefore vulnerable to diseases.
    • By vaccinating your child according to the recommended schedule, you’ll be protecting their classmates as well.
  • You will also be helping to protect people in your community who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons (e.g., people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and people who have received transplants).

Vaccines are recommended for children of all ages.

  • The need for vaccination does not end in childhood. Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, travel locations, medical conditions, and previous vaccination history.
  • Preteens and teens are at risk for diseases like meningococcal disease and cancer-causing HPV infections and need the protection of vaccines to keep them healthy.
  • Young adults need vaccines to stay protected against serious diseases, especially when they are college bound.
    • Protection from vaccines received during childhood can wear off with time, and college students may also be at increased risk for other vaccine-preventable diseases like meningococcal disease.
  • Infectious diseases tend to spread wherever large groups of people gather together. Outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease have been reported from college campuses during the last several years. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for those at increased risk in community settings.
  • You can send your kids off to college protected from serious diseases by making sure they’ve received all the vaccines recommended for them. Far too few adults are receiving the vaccines they need, leaving themselves and their loved ones unnecessarily vulnerable to serious diseases.

Check your child’s vaccine records to make sure they are up to date on all the vaccines they need to stay healthy.

  • Keep your child’s vaccine records current and in a safe place
  • If you haven’t already, check your child’s immunization record and schedule a visit to their physician or clinic. Doing so now will avoid a potential last minute rush and will help ensure there are no surprises on the first day of school.
  • Most schools require children to be up to date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting school in order to protect the health of all students. If you are unsure of your state’s school immunization requirements, check with your child’s doctor, school, child care provider, college health center, or local health department.
  • If you need official copies of immunization records for your child, or if you need to update your personal records, there are several places you can look including your child’s doctor, public health clinic, or school; or your state health department.
  • Make sure that you provide your child care facility with updated vaccine records each time your child gets a shot.

Many vaccine-preventable diseases can easily spread in child care and school settings. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school.

  • Schools are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact.
  • When a child comes down with an illness such as whooping cough, chickenpox or the flu, he or she may miss a lot of school while recovering – and somebody will need to stay home to provide care and make trips to the doctor.
    • Children can spread diseases to newborns too young to have received all doses of recommended vaccines, or people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients who are also at higher risk of disease.
  • For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world. The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur.
    • The measles outbreak in 2015 was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.
    • Since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 668 people in 2014. In 2015, there were 189 provisionally reported cases.

Vaccines are very safe.

  • Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe.
  • Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. They not only protect vaccinated individuals but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Currently the United States has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. The country’s long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible.

Talk to your child’s doctor or other health care professional to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

  • Take advantage of any visit to the doctor – checkups, sick visits, even physicals for sports or college – to ask the doctor about what vaccinations your child needs.
  • Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their health care professional about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children who do not otherwise have access to immunization.
    • The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native. Learn more about the VFC program.