Making sure your children are vaccinated on time is an important step toward ensuring their long-term health. Immunization is the single-most effective way parents can protect their children against serious preventable diseases. Immunization also helps protect the health of classmates, friends, relatives, and others in the community.
As we saw with measles this year, disease outbreaks can occur without warning at any time. We also saw again that measles affected and was spread mostly among people who had not been vaccinated. It is no coincidence that these epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases occur when vaccination rates go down.
Thirty years ago, a two-year-long measles outbreak sickened 5,000 people and killed 21 in New York City. The epidemic was caused by vaccines not being available. In Washington’s measles outbreak this year, vaccines were available, but not always utilized. Although the reasons why were different, both epidemics occurred because people had no immunity. Sadly, the outcome was the same — preventable suffering.
Federal and state laws require immunizations for children entering child care, preschool, and schools in this state. In Lewis County, the 2018 rate for school children getting all immunizations was 90.1 percent, which is slightly higher than the state average of 88.6 percent. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) lists the 2019-2020 school year guidelines for required immunizations at: www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/348-284-IndividualVaccineReqs2019-20.pdf. According to DOH, vaccines required for child care or school attendance include:
• Hepatitis B
• Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTaP)
• Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB)
• Pneumococcal (PCV)
• Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
• Varicella (Chickenpox)
Additional immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for children include:
• Hepatitis A
Preteens and teens need immunizations, too. In addition to the annual flu vaccine, the CDC recommends:
• HPV vaccine to prevent infections than can cause cancer later in life;
• Tdap booster shot to protect against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria; and
• Meningococcal conjugate to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections.
If you are not sure about the immunization status for yourself or family members, DOH offers “MyIR” online. This free service lets you view, download, and print your family’s immunization information. You can manage your family’s records securely, access them at any time, and print “Certificate of Immunization Status” documents as needed. Go to https://wa.myir.net/register to sign up. You may also request complete immunization records from your primary care provider.
Immunization protects your children and family from serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. There is no charge for vaccines for children aged 0-18 years in Washington. There may be a small charge for getting the shot and for the office visit, but you will not be charged for the vaccine itself. Also, clinics that get their vaccines from the state cannot deny your child a shot because you cannot pay.
Immunization recommendations and schedules seem to get more complicated every year. That’s because new vaccines come out that can prevent more diseases than in the past. Fortunately, it is easy to get the most current information from your primary care provider or online. The DOH website has a section dedicated to immunization information at: www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization.
You make educated choices about your health every day, from wearing seatbelts to eating the right foods. Educate yourself about the lifesaving benefits of immunizations for you and your family, then choose protection.