Why it’s important for children to be up to date on vaccinations

By the Kentucky Department for Public Health

Immunization is one of the greatest public-health achievements, preventing tens of thousands of deaths, millions of cases of disease, and saving billions of dollars each decade.

Immunization is a safe, effective way to protect children from disease, including some cancers, as well as hospitalization, disability, and death. It is especially important during a pandemic or other public-health emergency to maintain routine immunizations to prevent further outbreaks.

Pediatricians play a crucial role in immunizing children and are a trusted source for vaccine information. Vaccine conversations with parents should begin as early as possible – at prenatal visits/interviews, ideally – as families often make immunization decisions during pregnancy through the first two months of a baby’s life.

On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are tested to ensure they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages.

Immunity is the body’s way of preventing disease. When a baby is born, its immune system is not fully developed, which can put the infant at greater risk for infections. Vaccines reduce a child’s risk of infection by working with his or her body’s natural defenses to help safely develop immunity to disease.

Children are exposed to thousands of germs every day in their environment. This happens through the food the child eats, the air the child breathes, and things the child puts in his or her mouth.

Babies are born with immune systems that can fight most germs, but there are some deadly diseases they can’t handle. That’s why they need vaccines to strengthen their immune system.

Vaccines use very small amounts of antigens to help a child’s immune system recognize and learn to fight serious diseases. Antigens are parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work.

​To simplify the decision-making process for parents and families, we’ve compiled five reasons you should make sure your children are up to date on their vaccination schedules.

Vaccines can save your children’s lives: Some of the deadliest diseases targeting children have been eliminated through vaccines. For example, polio paralyzed and killed thousands of children yearly until a vaccine was created in the early 1950s. As a result of this adding this vaccine to the childhood vaccination schedule, no new cases of polio have been reported for more than 42 years.
Vaccinations are safe and effective: Vaccines are not created overnight and only are administered to the public after a long and careful review process by scientists and doctors. Vaccines are constantly tested and monitored even after initial approval. They may cause slight discomfort, pain or redness at the site of injection, but these side effects are small compared to the diseases they were specifically designed to prevent.
Immunization protects others you care about: Children too young to be vaccinated are most vulnerable when it comes to contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen resurgence of several diseases that affect children, like measles and whooping cough. In the U.S., about 10–20 babies die each year from whooping cough because they are too young to receive the vaccine and contract the disease from someone who was not vaccinated against it.

Immunizations can save your family time and money: Children without up-to-date immunization records can be denied admission to schools or child care. Your children are exposed to millions of germs through their day-to-day interactions and the only way to fight these germs is to ensure your children are up to date on their vaccinations. Over time, vaccine-preventable diseases become expensive to treat compared to the short time spent at the doctor’s office getting your children their shots. Immunization vaccines typically are covered by insurance, making them inexpensive or free methods to protect your kids from deadly diseases.

Immunization protects future generations: Vaccines have eliminated several deadly diseases in recent years. For example, smallpox was eradicated worldwide by a vaccine. As a result, children no longer receive the vaccination for smallpox. Continuing to follow the immunization schedule set for your children can help the community further eliminate harmful or deadly diseases for future generations.

What vaccines are required for children?

In Kentucky, to enter kindergarten, all children at least 5 years of age must have:

  • Five doses of DTaP or DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) or combinations of the two vaccines.
  • Four doses of IPV or OPV (polio) or combinations of the two vaccines.
  • Three doses of hepatitis B.
  • Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).
  • Two doses of varicella (chickenpox), unless a health-care provider states that the child has had a diagnosis of typical varicella disease or verification of a history of varicella disease by a health-care provider or a diagnosis of herpes zoster disease or verification of history of herpes zoster disease by a health-care provider.

For sixth grade entry, age 11 or older, a child is required to have:

  • One dose of Tdap (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) if it has been at least 2 years since the administration of the last dose of tetanus-containing vaccine.
  • Two doses of varicella, unless a health-care provider states that the child has had a diagnosis of typical varicella disease or verification of a history of varicella disease by a health-care provider or a diagnosis or herpes zoster disease or verification of a history of herpes zoster disease by a health-care provider.
  • One dose of MCV or MPSV (meningococcal vaccine).
In addition to the required vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these vaccines for children and adolescents:

  • Rotavirus (RV)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)
Previous Article
Next Article