If you or your child missed vaccines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is a great time to make sure your vaccine schedule is current. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ensuring that people get routine vaccinations is very important, especially during a pandemic. It protects individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) strongly recommends that patients receive all necessary vaccinations on schedule from their primary care physician.
Path to improved health
According to the CDC, routine vaccination is an essential preventive care service for children, adolescents, and adults (including pregnant women) that should not be delayed.
Well-child services are categorized as essential services. This is because they help make sure children are protected from illnesses that require additional medical care. It’s important to work with your doctor to make sure that your family is up to date on their vaccines or that you catch up on your vaccine schedule in a timely manner.
Children need more vaccines than adults because they are building their immune systems. Regularly scheduled vaccinations should follow a recommended immunization schedule. This schedule outlines when children should be vaccinated against 16 diseases. It was developed by experts who study diseases. Delaying or spreading out vaccines can put your child at risk for getting sick. The best way to protect them is to get vaccinations on time.
Parents with school-aged children should make sure their kids are up to date on vaccines before the new school year begins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), national coverage with state-required vaccines declined among kindergarten students by 2% from 2020–2022. An additional 4.4% of kindergartners without an approved exemption were outdated on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization. Disruptions related to COVID-19 affected vaccination coverage, but coverage has not returned to pre-pandemic numbers since returning to in-person learning.
Adults need vaccines too, especially older adults. It is recommended that healthy adults who are 50 years old and older get a shingles vaccine. Adults 65 years old or older should also get a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PCV15 or 20) to protect against pneumonia. For adults who have a condition that weakens their immune system, a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV15 or 20) is also recommended. If you’ve gotten the PCV15, then you’ll also need the PPSV23 a year later. If you’ve gotten the PCV20 vaccine, then no PPSV23 is needed.
Children who are 6 months old and older and adults also need a flu shot each year. Getting a flu shot is even more important now, according to the CDC. This is because it can help reduce the chances of becoming sick with a respiratory illness and passing it to other people who have weak immune systems.
Things to consider
For decades, children have been given vaccines to protect them against diseases like measles, mumps, polio, and whooping cough. Some of these diseases can be mild, but others are dangerous and can even cause death. All of them are highly contagious.
When vaccination rates decline, cases of preventable diseases go up. This has been happening in recent years with measles. As of July 7, 2023, the CDC has been notified of 18 confirmed cases in 12 U.S. jurisdictions. That may not seem like a lot but compare it with just 3 cases during the same time in 2022. By the end of 2022, there were 121 cases. Almost all those cases could have been prevented with vaccines. The CDC urges all U.S. residents to make sure they are current on their MMR vaccine, especially prior to international travel.
Without vaccines, these diseases would spread quickly and endanger not only children, but the entire community. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits, hospitalizations, and further strain the healthcare system.
There are many common vaccine misconceptions. Vaccines are safe, effective, and save lives. There is proof that childhood vaccines do not cause autism. Side effects of vaccines are mild and may include slight pain and tenderness at the site of the injection. Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child might be allergic to a vaccine.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Can my family receive vaccines if we’re sick?
- Can I still get the disease after I’ve gotten the vaccine?
- Is my newborn at risk of certain diseases if they aren’t old enough to get certain vaccines?
- What could happen if I don’t get my child vaccinated?
- How can I make sure my family’s vaccine schedule is current?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.