School Starts Soon—Is Your Child 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 through late July 2012 show that more than 20,000 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) have already been reported in this country and many more cases go unreported. During this time, 9 deaths have been reported—all in children younger than 1 year of age. Outbreaks of pertussis at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades.
Another disease that can spread very easily in a school environment is measles. In 2011, the number of reported cases of measles was higher than usual—222 people had the disease. Measles comes into the United States from countries where the disease still circulates, including many European countries. Measles 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
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—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.
Children and Teens 7-18 Years
Older 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 vaccine (the shot or nasal spray for healthy kids) every year.
As kids get older, they are more at risk for catching certain diseases, like meningococcal meningitis, so they need the protection that vaccines provide. The recommended immunization schedule is regularly updated to include new vaccines and reflect current research. It may have changed since your child was first immunized. Specific vaccines, like HPV, which helps protect against certain cancers, are recommended to be given during the preteen (11-12) years. If your preteens or teens haven't already gotten their vaccines, 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. To learn more, visit the preteen vaccine pages.
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.
These easy–to–use tools are accessible online.
- CDC's Vaccine Website for Parents
- Parents' Guide to Childhood Immunizations
- Facts for Parents: Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them
- State Mandates on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Immunization Action Coalition
- Immunization Requirements for Child Care and School
- Links to State, City and Island Immunization or Public Health Department Websites
- If You Choose Not to Vaccinate Your Child, Understand the Risks and Responsibilities [PDF - 512 KB]
- Vaccination Records for Kids
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