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It’s Back To School season so make sure your child is up to date on all recommended vaccines. Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records.

Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools, and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms, and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.

You can keep track of your child’s vaccines by following a recommended immunization schedule, which your healthcare provider 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. Check out this easy to read Back to School Pup to see what your child needs at different ages.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Program now makes vaccine data available online so you can see local vaccine coverage and exemption rates in your community.  MDPH posts immunization rates for grade 7, kindergarten, childcare, and college by school/center and by county.

While immunization rates in Massachusetts are generally high, there are parts of the state with exemptions rates substantially higher than the state average. The map below shows the rates of students with an exemption to one or more vaccines. Exemptions presented here are medical and religious exemptions combined, however most exemptions claimed in Massachusetts are religious exemptions.

You can find more information on maps like this on our School Immunizations page.

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Program and the Immunization Initiative of the Massachusetts Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (MCAAP) are currently working on a Vaccine Confidence Project. The goal of the Vaccine Confidence Project is to increase vaccine confidence throughout Massachusetts to ensure that all citizens are fully protected against serious, vaccine-preventable disease. People who lack vaccine confidence are more likely to seek exemptions to school-required immunizations. Areas with higher rates of school exemptions may have more unimmunized people, which leave both individuals and communities more susceptible to cases and possible outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. If you are interesting in learning more about this Vaccine Confidence project, please contact Rebecca Vanucci, Immunization Outreach Coordinator, at rebecca.vanucci@state.ma.us.

School immunization requirements exist to protect students and members of their community from serious vaccine-preventable diseases by ensuring high vaccination rates. Many vaccine-preventable diseases can easily spread in child care and school settings. Protecting your children from preventable diseases by following the recommended immunization schedule will help keep them healthy and in school. Talk to your child’s doctor to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

Written By:


Immunization Outreach Coordinator in the Bureau of Infectious Disease

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