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Many parents and children stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic. That kept them safe, but it means children missed well-child visits. And many are still behind on their shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents to make sure their child continues to get recommended vaccines.
Now’s the time to catch up on vaccines, before the busy back-to-school rush.
Children need vaccines to stay healthy, from when they are babies to their teens. Getting vaccines on time during childhood is vital. It gives immunity before children are exposed to diseases. And children must get some vaccines before they can go to school.
Children in the U.S. get vaccines that protect them from more than a dozen diseases, including:
Most of these diseases are now at their lowest levels in history, thanks to years of immunization. But about 300 children still die each year in the U.S. from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. They are a vital part of children’s preventive care and help stop disease outbreaks.
The diseases that childhood vaccines are meant to prevent are most likely to happen when children are young. That’s also when the chance of complications is greatest. That makes early vaccination — sometimes starting shortly after birth — essential. If you put off vaccines until a child is older, it might be too late.
Yes, vaccines are safe. Vaccines go through years of safety testing by the Food and Drug Administration to make sure they are safe. Many of them work by exposing your body to a very small amount of weak or dead versions of germs or viruses. Your immune system then builds up resources to fight those bugs in the future. Vaccines have slowed or stopped the spread of polio, measles, mumps and other serious diseases.
The most common side effects are often very mild, such as pain or swelling at the shot site.
Researchers have not found a link between autism and childhood vaccines. The study that started the talk years ago was retracted.
The CDC recommends that children and teens get their shots at certain ages:
Infant to 2 years: Starting vaccines from birth can help protect your child against hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, pneumococcal disease, polio, flu, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.
3 to 6 years: Continue with vaccines that protect against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. Also continue with yearly flu shots.
7 to 13 years: Preteen vaccines can help protect against HPV, meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Also continue with yearly flu shots.
14 to 18 years: Getting recommended vaccines, including a meningitis shot, and a yearly flu shot through age 18 can help your teen stay healthy.
Ask your child’s doctor about vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s best to get the facts you need from a medical professional you can trust. Don’t make health choices based on stories you’ve seen on TV or the internet or heard from other parents.
We offer Wellness Guidelines each year that include specific recommendations for preventive care, immunizations and screenings for adults and children. Check out the Wellness Guidelines to find out what preventive care you and your family need to stay healthy.
Originally published 5/26/2021; Revised 2022
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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