on Shots Before Summer Ends
By Carolyn M.
August 7, 2012
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
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
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 children.
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.
It’s true 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 infected.
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
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
Federal data show. Shots can cause temporary
discomfort, but these side effects are typically
very mild and limited to the site where the shot
Depending on your
child’s age, your doctor will tell you which
shots your child needs. But make sure to
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
teens ages 7 to 18 need additional or "booster"
shots to be fully protected from preventable
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
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.
I’m Dr. Carolyn
Clancy, and that’s my advice on how to navigate
the health care system.
for Healthcare Research and Quality
Questions Are the Answer
Healthcare Quality Report, 2011: Chapter 2:
Effectiveness of Care
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Department of Health and Human Services
Healthy People 2020, Improving the Health of
People 2020, Immunizations and Infections
for Disease Control and Prevention
Vaccines: Why Immunize?
Recommended Immunizations for Children Birth
Through 6 Years Old
Immunization schedule for persons aged 7 through
18 years, United States, 2012
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