Get Up-to-Date on Shots Before Summer Ends
By Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.
August 7, 2012
For many children,
August marks the end of summer vacation and the return to school. For parents,
it's a good time to make sure their children are up to date on vaccines—or
shots—that prevent serious diseases.
these diseases can easily spread to others, vaccines protect the health of
others in your family, in your child's school or day care, and in your
We need to
do a better job making sure very young children get the shots they need, recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's 2011 National
Healthcare Quality Report show. Fewer than 70 percent of children between
the ages of 19 and 35 months got the vaccines recommended by the Healthy People 2020 program.
Some of this
may be due to gaps in access to care. Children in lower income families are
less likely to receive recommended shots compared to children in families with
higher incomes. If your child isn't covered by a health insurer, find out if
you can enroll in your state's Children's Health Insurance Program. These programs cover all needed shots for infants and
You may have
heard confusing messages about vaccines. Some people wonder why we still need
shots for diseases that we don't hear much about any more. Others worry whether
shots are safe.
that diseases like polio and diphtheria have become rare in the United States. And smallpox was eliminated more than 30 years
ago. Much of that is due to the shots we get to prevent these illnesses. If we
stop giving the protection that comes with vaccines, more people will become
We know this
because it already happened in Japan in the late 1970s when people stopped
getting the shots that prevented whooping cough. This was followed by a major outbreak of
the disease, which hit 13,000 people and caused the Japanese government to
start the vaccine program again.
We have the
safest and most effective vaccine system in the world. Childhood vaccines
prevent an estimated 14 million infections and save 30,000 lives each year, Federal data show. Shots can cause temporary
discomfort, but these side effects are typically very mild and limited to the site
where the shot was given.
your child's age, your doctor will tell you which shots your child needs. But
make sure to ask questions if you don't understand why or when
shots should be given. An easy-to-read schedule (PDF File; Plugin Software Help) for infants and children up to age
six is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and
groups that represent family doctors and pediatricians.
teens ages 7 to 18 need additional or "booster" shots to be fully protected
from preventable diseases. Another handy, up-to-date schedule (PDF File; Plugin Software Help) from the CDC describes which shots
are needed for older children.
One of the
vaccines for this age group prevents a serious infection of the membrane that
covers the brain and spinal cord. The meningitis vaccine is recommended at age
11 or 12, with a booster shot at age 16. But only 54 percent of teens between
the ages of 13 and 17 had ever received this vaccine, AHRQ data show.
We have come
a long way from the days when diseases like polio and smallpox caused death and
life-long disability. Yet we have work to do in making sure that children get
the shots they need when they need them. Their lives depend on it.
Carolyn Clancy, and that's my advice on how to navigate the health care system.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Questions Are the Answer
Healthcare Quality Report, 2011: Chapter 2: Effectiveness of Care
Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
U.S. Department of Health and Human
People 2020, Improving the Health of Americans
People 2020, Immunizations and Infections
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Recommended Immunizations for Children Birth Through 6 Years Old
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/downloads/parent-ver-sch-0-6yrs.pdf (Plugin Software Help)
Immunization schedule for persons aged 7 through 18 years, United States, 2012
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/7-18yrs-schedule-pr.pdf (Plugin Software Help)
Current as of August 2012
Get Up-to-Date on Shots Before Summer Ends. Navigating the Health Care System: Advice Columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy, August 7, 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc080712.htm