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Make Sure Your Kids' Vaccinations Are Current

< Aug. 22, 2012 > -- With schools across the country about to reopen for the fall, one item to add to your back-to-school list is a check on your children's immunizations: Are they up-to-date?

"These vaccines save children's lives, says David Kimberlin, M.D., at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Photo of girl getting a vaccination

Although most of the diseases that vaccinations protect against are now rare in the U.S., outbreaks still happen, the CDC says. More than 20,000 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have already been reported this year through late July, with nine deaths, all of them in children younger than 1 year.

Vaccinations protect not only school-aged children from infectious diseases, but also younger children and older adults at home and in the greater community.

"At any given time, all of these vaccine-preventable diseases are at most 18 hours away," Dr. Kimberlin says. "For example, one of the few remaining places where polio circulates is Afghanistan, and U.S. troops return home from there daily. Anyone exposed could inadvertently pass polio to a child."

Long list of diseases

In addition to pertussis, 15 other diseases are currently preventable with childhood vaccines: chickenpox (varicella), diphtheria, seasonal flu, Haemophilus influenza type b, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, measles, meningococcal, mumps, pneumococcal, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, and polio.

Vaccines help prevent disease by causing a child's immune system to recognize the disease in "imitation" form, so if the real disease comes along later, the child's body can fight it off.

Although vaccines can cause side effects, the most common ones are mild. Side effects can include redness and swelling at the site where the injection was given, and fever. Most side effects ease in a few days.

"People do have all sorts of fears of things they don't understand, but there is no rational reason for not vaccinating a child," says Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., also at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

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Immunization Tips

Keep this information in mind to help your child's immunizations go more smoothly:

  • Common side effects of immunizations include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness, and fever. Discuss these side effects with your doctor and ask what symptoms deserve an office call.

  • Ask your doctor's office if it participates in an immunization registry. This is a source you can go to if your immunization records get lost.

  • Ask your doctor's office if it has an immunization reminder/recall system. This type of system will call to remind you when immunizations are due and will warn you if an immunization has been missed.

  • Always bring your immunizations record with you to all of your child's office visits and make sure the doctor signs and dates every immunization.

Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have, and they have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Pediatrics - Immunizations

CDC - Immunization Schedules

CDC - School Starts Soon - Is Your Child Fully Vaccinated?