National Immunization Awareness Month occurs every August and provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan. This year, the focus is on four weekly themes which include: A Healthy Start (babies and pregnant women); Back to School (children, preteens, and teens); Off to the Future (young adults); and Not Just for Kids (adults).
The Back to School theme for the second week, August 10–16, focuses on getting children up to date on their vaccines. This theme is timely because the beginning of the school year is right around the corner.
Schools are a prime venue for transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-aged children can easily spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease, and most schools require children to be up to date on vaccinations before starting school in order to protect the health of all students.
Younger children aged 4 years to 6 years are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis), varicella, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and polio. Older children, such as preteens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine), and HPV (human papillomavirus) at 11 to 12 years of age. In addition, the influenza vaccine is recommended for all children aged 6 months and older.
Parents and caregivers should be educated about the benefits and risks of vaccinations and encouraged to check their child’s immunization record and ensure it is up to date. They should also be encouraged to take advantage of any health care provider visit (e.g., routine checkups, sick visits, physicals for sports or college) to ask about needed vaccinations and have their children vaccinated.
Following are a few ideas to celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month’s (NIAM) Back to School week: