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Massachusetts was among the first places in the world to eliminate smallpox through the use of vaccines, according to the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Prevention, Response, and Services.

With this precedent in mind, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the Immunization Program to ensure that children and adults in the Commonwealth are immunized in a timely manner to prevent potentially deadly diseases from spreading. You can discuss your child’s immunization schedule with your family doctor.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Child?

Vaccinating children on the recommended schedule protects them from more than a dozen serious diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not only do vaccines keep children safe from preventable diseases, but some vaccines, like the one to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), can even safeguard kids from certain types of cancer. There are also individuals who cannot receive vaccinations for medical reasons, so making sure vaccine-preventable diseases don’t spread can protect this group of people, as well.

Massachusetts also requires specific vaccinations to attend public school. Vaccines lower children’s risk of contracting serious contagious illnesses like pertussis (or whooping cough). Massachusetts School Immunization Requirements vary depending on your child’s grade level, so be sure to keep your child up to date on required vaccinations.

Thanks to the federal Vaccines for Children Program (VFC), even if you do not have medical insurance or are unable to pay for vaccines, your child is eligible to receive free vaccines through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Ask your doctor about which vaccinations your child should receive.

What Is a Vaccine?

A vaccine is a weakened or inactive form of a disease that is administered into the body through a nasal spray, needle injection, or oral medication. Immunization is the process by which a person becomes resistant to a disease, usually after receiving a course of vaccines.

Vaccines are developed, approved, and manufactured after an extensive review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may cause possible side effects, such as a low fever or sore arm. When the vaccine enters the body, its natural defense system produces antibodies to combat the inactive disease. As a result, the body becomes immune and is ready to fight vaccine-preventable diseases, such as:

When Should I Vaccinate My Child?

You can keep track of your child’s vaccines by following a recommended immunization schedule, which your pediatrician can discuss with you. As your child progresses through school, make sure to keep up with the Massachusetts School Immunization Requirements, as vaccine requirements vary by grade level:

Vaccine Requirements
Child Care/Preschool Hepatitis B;

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) (DTaP);

Polio;

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib);

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and

Varicella (chickenpox)

Kindergarten Hepatitis B;Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) (DTaP);Polio;

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); and

Varicella (chickenpox)

Grades 1 to 6 Hepatitis B;Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) (DTaP);Polio;

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and

Varicella (chickenpox)

Grades 7 to 12 Hepatitis B;Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) (Tdap);Polio;

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR);

Varicella (chickenpox); and

Meningococcal disease (meningitis)

Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH)

Where Can I Vaccinate My Child?

Many families choose to get their children vaccinated by a family doctor or recommended pediatrician. If you are unsure about where to get your child vaccinated, you can start by:

  • Visiting your pediatrician;
  • Checking with your health care provider for doctor recommendations; or
  • Locating a health center near you.

Contact your pediatrician to talk about your child’s vaccines.

If you have any questions, comment below or tweet us at @MassGov.

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