ack-to-school season is here. It’s a time for parents to gather school supplies and backpacks. It’s also National Immunization Awareness Month — and the perfect time to make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccines.
Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most important things parents can do to help protect their children’s health — and that of their classmates and their community. Most schools require children to be current on vaccinations before enrolling to protect the health of all students.
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.
“Thanks to vaccines, most of these diseases have become rare in the United States,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. “But many still exist here, and they can make children very sick, leading to many days of missed school, missed work for parents, and even hospitalization and death.”
Since 2010, between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of whooping cough are reported, and up to 20 babies die from the disease, each year in the U.S. Most whooping-cough deaths are among babies who are too young to be protected by their own vaccination. “Without vaccines, these numbers would be much, much higher,” Messonnier said. “That’s why kids still need vaccines.”
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk of disease and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community — including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.
School-age children need vaccines. For example, kids who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, also called whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and polio. Older children, like pre-teens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), HPV (human papillomavirus), and MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate virus) vaccines. Yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.
Check with your child’s doctor to find out what vaccines they need this year. Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.