It may be hard to think about, but fall is right around the corner – and with it, the start of another school year! Whether your child is just entering preschool/kindergarten or a seasoned pro heading back to the classroom, there are lots of ways to prepare for school – buying new clothes, books, pens, pencils, backpacks – and most importantly, making sure your child’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to keep your child and their classmates healthy. Vaccinations can help protect children against certain diseases and conditions like tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis, hepatitis B, measles/mumps/rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). Even though the majority of vaccine-preventable diseases are at record level lows in Massachusetts, it does not mean they have been completely eliminated.
In fact, measles was officially eliminated in the US in 2000; however, between January and July 18, 2014, 580 measles cases in 20 U.S. states were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has determined that this current increase in measles cases is being driven by U.S. residents who were exposed to the virus while visiting other countries and then brought it back to the U.S. Many U.S. cases have been associated with a huge measles outbreak in the Philippines, involving over 10,000 confirmed cases since January 2014. Most U.S. cases have occurred in people who have not been vaccinated, including children, or who have not known their vaccination status.
Measles is a respiratory disease that causes fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash all over the body. It is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease. In Massachusetts, there have been eight confirmed cases of measles in 2014, compared to one confirmed case in 2013, and zero in 2012. Eight may not sound like many cases, but there were hundreds of people exposed to these eight measles cases in hospitals, clinics, businesses and grocery stores. The measles virus spreads rapidly in communities with low vaccination rates. Be sure your child’s measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccinations are up-to-date to keep measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases from occurring.
Vaccines go through rigorous testing to ensure both safety and efficacy. Your child’s pediatrician or nurse can answer any specific questions you may have regarding the vaccines.
Visit http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/cdc/immunization/guidelines-ma-school-requirements.pdf to learn about the 2014-2015 school year requirements for specific grades for Massachusetts.
Make sure that your child and their classmates stay healthy this year by getting vaccinated!
For more information on immunizations, visit www.mass.gov/dph or www.cdc.gov/nip.
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