August 31: Midday Fix - Back to School Immunizations
Back to School Immunizations

The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) and the Chicago Area Immunization Campaign (CAIC) urge parents now to see a doctor to be sure their child's immunizations are up-to-date before heading back to the classroom this fall.

To coincide with the back to school season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month to highlight immunizations as one of the most important ways parents can protect their children against serious diseases.

"Having children vaccinated is a critical public health issue as it impacts not only them, but also the entire population," said Lisa Kritz, director of the Chicago Area Immunization Campaign. " Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough and meningitis result in doctor visits, hospitalizations, ongoing health issues and even premature deaths. They also carry certain costs, such as sick children missing school and causing parents to miss work."

In 2008, Illinois was one of 15 states to witness the largest outbreak of measles in the United States in more than ten years, which likely could have been prevented by immunizations, notes Kritz.

Alarmingly, 13 cases of pertussis have been reported in Chicago in the last four weeks compared to seven cases reported during the same time period in 2009. Pertussis has resulted in six deaths in California this year.

A ninety percent vaccination rate is the public health standard set by the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the National Immunization Survey, the rate of immunization in the City of Chicago through the second quarter of 2009 was 75.6 percent. Outside of Chicago, the immunization rate in Illinois was 70.2 percent.

Chicago Public Schools require students to provide proof of required immunizations and health exams before October 15, or they will face exclusion from school. If a student is behind with his or her vaccinations, it is possible to catch up with a visit to a health care provider.

Immunization requirements for Chicago Public Schools include: diphtheria; pertussis (whooping cough); tetanus (DTaP/Tdap); inactivated polio virus (IPV); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); hepatitis B; varicella (chicken pox); haemophilus influenzae, type B (HIB).

Health officials recommend immunizations start well before a child reaches school age as the majority of immunizations are recommended to begin as early as infancy. However, it is never too late to get up-to-date with vaccines, and health care providers will work with parents to make sure that children are adequately protected and school-ready.

ICAAP and CAIC encourage families to identify a primary care physician or nearby clinic or health center where they can seek year-round preventive care and routine health advice and treatment that goes beyond immunization services.

"Protecting your child from vaccine preventable diseases by ensuring up-to-date status on immunizations, and establishing a medical home whereby a child receives accessible and continuous medical care, are the single most important things parents can do to ensure the health and well-being of their children," said Dr. Dennis Vickers, president of the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

For questions about back-to-school vaccinations, check with your health care provider or call your county health department.


List of immunization walk-in clinics, sponsored by the Chicago Department of Public Health, where children 0 – 18 years of age can receive vaccines at no charge: