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A Shot at a Healthy School Year

Article date: August 11, 2014

By Stacy Simon

As the new school year begins and students head back to the classroom, be sure they’re up to date with vaccinations. In fact, your state may require children entering school to be vaccinated against certain diseases. Check with your child’s doctor, your child’s school, or your health department to find out.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the past 20 years. However, outbreaks of preventable diseases still happen. For example, more than 48,000 cases of whooping cough and 20 deaths were reported in the US in 2012. Pertussis is much more common in children who aren’t vaccinated. Getting your child’s vaccinations on time helps protect your child and your communities and schools from outbreaks.

According to the CDC, children newborn through age 6 need vaccines to protect them from 14 serious diseases, including polio, measles, and tetanus. And all children 6 months and older should be vaccinated against flu. Children and teens ages 7 to 18 need booster shots because some vaccine doses wear off over time. They may also be more at risk for certain diseases like meningitis, and need the protection vaccines provide. Check with your child’s doctor to be sure.

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HPV vaccines

Preteen and teen girls should be vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV). The 2 HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – both prevent the 2 types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancers. Despite this, only 1/3 of adolescent girls have completed the 3-dose series of either vaccine. In the July 25, 2014 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the CDC reports that vaccination rates increased slightly between 2012 and 2013, but still remain unacceptably low.

The President’s Cancer Panel has released a report that calls increasing the rate of HPV vaccinations one of the most profound opportunities in cancer prevention today. The report named missed opportunities during health care visits as the most important reason for the low vaccination rates. The report says most 11- and 12-year-old girls eligible for the vaccines may not be receiving them at doctor visits in which they receive other vaccines. The report calls for health care providers to strongly recommend the vaccine during office visits.

The vaccines work only if they are given before an HPV infection occurs. HPV is spread through sexual contact. The American Cancer Society recommends the 3-dose vaccine for girls ages 11 to 18 because most girls at this age have not become sexually active. This is also an age when girls still will be seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations.

Should boys get the HPV vaccine?

The American Cancer Society does not yet have recommendations for vaccination of boys, but is reviewing the scientific evidence. Updates to American Cancer Society recommendations for the use of HPV vaccines will likely be published in 2015.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for both boys and girls ages 11 and 12, and for boys and young men ages 13 through 21 and girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who have not already had all 3 shots. Vaccinations may also be given to children as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26.

Citation: Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents, 2007-2013, and Postlicensure Vaccine Safety Monitoring, 2006-2014 – United States. Published in the July 25, 2014 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). First author Shannon Stokley, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.

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