WAPAKONETA — As children get their last minute back-to-school supplies, an Auglaize County medical authority said there's something else parents shouldn't forget.
"Parents' checklists should not only be about school supplies, but immunizations," Auglaize County Medical Director Dr. Juan Torres said. "Along with getting school supplies and new clothes, families should make a quick vaccine visit to their primary care provider."
Torres recommended families check on the immunization status of their children.
"CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is finding that some adolescents have not completed series of immunizations," Torres said. "Parents are very good with getting their children immunized as children, but as the children get older, it is harder to get them vaccinated. The barriers might include adolescents feeling invincible at an older age, shots hurting or them not understanding the reasoning behind the immunizations themselves."
School-aged children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines and the CDC has online resources and tools available to help parents and doctors make sure all ages are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines and protected from serious disease.
The CDC recommends that children through adolescents complete the regular series of childhood immunizations along with HPV for both males and females, meningococcal, Tdap and Hepatitis B, as well as annual flu vaccines.
According to the CDC, making sure children of all ages receive all of their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things parents can do to ensure their children's long-term health, as well as the health of friends, classmates and others in the community.
Although some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines, outbreaks still happen. For example, preliminary data through late July showed that more than 20,000 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) already had been reported in the U.S. and many other cases are expected to have gone unreported.
During this time, nine deaths were reported — all in children younger than 12-months-old. Outbreaks of pertussis at middle and high schools may occur as protection from childhood vaccines fade.
Measles is another disease that can easily spread in a school environment. In 2011, the number of reported cases of measles — 222 — was higher than usual. Measles comes into the United States from countries where the disease still circulates, including many European countries, and can be serious, causing hospitalization and death. Young children are at the highest risk for serious complications from measles.
The CDC recommends making sure children stay up-to-date with vaccinations as the best way to make sure communities and schools do not see other outbreaks of unnecessary illnesses and deaths.
For children from birth to 6-years-old, the CDC recommends they be vaccinated to protect them from 14 diseases that can be serious or life-threatening. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their own children increase not only their risk of getting the disease, but increase it for those around them as well.
Flu vaccines are recommended for children attending schools to help keep them healthy, but all children 6-months and older are advised to get a flu shot.
Getting all other children vaccinated, as well as other family members and caregivers, helps protect infants younger than 6-months-old. To verify what vaccines children need, visit the CDC's childhood immunization schedule online.
While many people are familiar with the vaccines young children need, vaccinations for adolescents often get overlooked, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends that all children 6-months and older receive the annual flu vaccine, and that as they get older and become more at risk for catching certain diseases, like meningococcal meningitis, they need the protection a vaccine for it provides.
The recommended immunization schedule is regularly updated to include new vaccines and reflect current research, and it may have changed since a child was first immunized, so the CDC recommends all parents look at an updated list, which would include specific vaccines, like HPV, which helps protect against certain cancers, and is recommended to be given during the preteen years. Those 11- and 12-year-olds who haven't received the vaccine should get caught up as soon as possible.
For other diseases, like whooping cough, vaccine protection received in childhood wears off over time, so 11- and 12-year-olds also are recommended to get the Tdap booster shot.
Teens, as well as adults, who have not gotten the Tdap should get the booster as soon as possible.
A separate adolescent immunization schedule is available to address needed vaccinations to protect those who are 7 to 18 years of age from vaccine-preventable disease.
According to the CDC, getting every recommended dose of every vaccine provides children with the best protection possible. If a child misses a shot, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to catch up.
The CDC has developed a catch-up immunization schedule, which also can be found online and provides parents and healthcare providers with the best options for getting children 6 years old and younger back on schedule.
Vaccine schedules for children, adolescents and adults can be found online at CDC.gov/vaccines.