Are your kids up to date?

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Make sure vaccines are on back to school checklists

A new school year is just around the corner, but before the school bus arrives, make sure your kids’ shot records are up to date.

“Vaccines are one of the best lines of defense against many illnesses,” said Ronald Coleman, Jr., DO, Providence Pediatric Clinic. “They develop immunity against infections, helping prevent diseases that can cause disability and death in both children and adults,” he said.

Providence is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Protect and Prevent

Watching your little one squirm or even burst into tears with each needle stick can be hard, but vaccines help prevent 16 different diseases, including chicken pox, flu, measles, mumps and polio.

“Vaccines contain parts of the virus or bacteria that cause the body to develop a defense against the infection,” Coleman said. “Vaccinating your children will not only help protect them from getting sick, but also help protect others around them.”

Age, illness or other risk factors may prevent some people from getting vaccinated, so they rely on herd immunity to help keep them protected.  When a large population, or “herd,” is vaccinated, the possibility of spreading preventable diseases decreases. This creates an extra layer of protection for those who are too young or too sick to be vaccinated.

Most people don’t experience side effects from vaccines, Coleman said. Possible side effects include redness, mild swelling, or soreness at location of shot, mild fever, mild rash, headache, body aches and fainting.

Allergic reactions are rare and related to ingredients in the vaccine. Let your doctor know about any allergies your child may have.

Getting those shots doesn’t always mean your child won’t get sick from preventable diseases, but the immunities already built up from the vaccine can help him weather the illness with more ease.

“If you get sick even after being vaccinated, the symptoms are typically milder,” Coleman said.

 Back-to-school checklist: which vaccines and when?

 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends scheduled vaccination to help protect children throughout infancy, childhood, teenage years and beyond.

“Delaying shots creates gaps in protection against life-threatening diseases,” Coleman said. “Sticking to the recommended schedule allows children to develop immunity early in life, before they are exposed.”

Before your child starts school or daycare, make sure he is up to date with the CDC’s recommended vaccines through age six. Missed any shots? Talk to your doctor about a catch-up schedule that is best for your child.

Not just for young children

 Vaccines aren’t reserved only for the youngest tots. Preventable illnesses can occur at any age, so it’s important to receive recommended vaccines and booster shots beyond early childhood.

“Boosters are needed to build immunity over time, because immunity fades and germs change,” Coleman said.

To continue protection against illness, the CDC recommends specific vaccines or boosters for children over age six, teens and adults:

  • 7 to 10 years: Children ages seven to 10 years old should get the flu vaccine each year. The HPV vaccine can be given as early as age nine. Talk to your doctor about the right time for your child.
  • 11 to 12 years: Eleven and 12 year olds should get the flu shot each year. Meningococcal conjugate, HPV and Tdap vaccines are also recommended for pre-teens.
  • 13 to 18 years: Teens also need the flu shot each year, along with a booster dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine at 16 and the serogroup B meningococcal vaccines between 16 and 18 years old.
  • Adults 19 years and older: Adults should get a flu shot each year, along with a variety of vaccines and boosters throughout adulthood including hepatitis B and meningococcal vaccines.

Dr. Coleman points out that if you plan to travel internationally, talk to your doctor about what vaccines you may need to keep your family protected.

If you can’t go to your pediatrician or family doctor, check your local Public Health District for additional resources.