It’s almost back-to-school time, so now is a good time to make sure your kids have the vaccinations they need. Vaccinations protect not only your children but also their classmates, your family, and the community.
Vaccines are safe and effective, but misinformation surrounding them has been blamed for the return of measles, a childhood disease once declared eliminated. So far in 2019, more than 1,100 cases of measles have been confirmed in the U.S. No cases have been confirmed in Arkansas to date, but cases have been confirmed in neighboring Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a map identifying the 30 states where cases have been confirmed.
Arkansas is one of 15 states that grant not only medical but also religious and philosophical exemptions to immunization of children, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Community immunity, also known as herd immunity, exists when enough people are immune to an infectious disease to limit the disease’s ability to spread when it occurs. If the concentration of unvaccinated individuals in a community becomes too large, it can decrease community immunity and contribute to increased spread of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. The threshold for community immunity varies by disease, but most efforts target a goal of 90% protected. See our fact sheet from 2017 for more information.
Under a new state law, public and private schools are now required to report their numbers of exemptions from vaccination requirements. This will help parents understand the levels of risk in their childrens’ schools. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson discussed the law, and other new health-related laws, on the Sunday, July 28, episode of “Talk Business & Politics.”
The Arkansas Department of Education has posted a handy chart (pages 7 and 8) on its website with the immunization requirements for public school children in the state.
Some vaccinations are not required by law but are recommended. For example, the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older receive a flu shot every year by the end of October. In the 2017-18 flu season, 186 children in the U.S. died from the flu, about 80% of whom had not received a flu vaccination that season, according to the CDC.
Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse about vaccinations recommended for his or her age. See also the CDC’s schedule of recommended childhood vaccinations.