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Put Immunizations on your Back-to-School Check List


Pencils, notebooks and backpacks are on parents' back-to-school check lists but what about immunizations?

Charles Hannum MDAugust is National Immunization Awareness Month and it's also the perfect time to make sure children are up to date with vaccinations. Getting vaccinated is the ideal way to keep kids healthy, said Charles Hannum, MD, a pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center.

Sticking to the routine schedule of childhood immunization is especially important because younger children are at a higher risk of getting sick and being hospitalized from infectious diseases we vaccinate against, said Hannum.

"I think the most important thing is that we have vaccines available that will protect you from death, serious illness and hospitalization," said Hannum.

Many children missed checkups and vaccines over the last few years due to COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics are encouraging parents to play catch up and discuss missed vaccinations with their pediatrician. Children who are vaccinated lower their risk of contracting contagious diseases, protect other children from getting sick and reduce the spread of fast-spreading diseases like measles and whooping cough.

COVID proved that even if vaccines don't always prevent individuals from becoming ill, communities with high vaccination rates have reduced incidence of infection.

"Kids who are vaccinated are protected from getting sick or as sick and keep other kids from getting sick," said James Goodman, MD, a Lowell General Hospital-affiliated pediatrician and provider at Circle Health Pediatrics. "Herd immunity helps prevent and limit illnesses like we have seen from COVID which spread very quickly throughout schools."

James Goodman, MD

Goodman, who had chickenpox as a kid before there was a vaccine, said the idea that it's not necessary to get vaccinated for diseases that don't exist anymore, is false. Polio, a disease that was eradicated in 1979, was identified in an unvaccinated New Yorker last year.  

"Part of the reason they were not seeing as much polio was because of the vaccine," said Goodman. "It's the vaccine that kind of led to that as opposed to the argument of not getting the vaccine. Saying 'this isn't around so I don't need the vaccine' is like saying 'I haven't been in a car wreck, so I don't need to wear a seatbelt.'"

There are 14 diseases that children are vaccinated for from birth to age 18. Goodman suggests parents check with their pediatrician or their child's school nurse to determine what vaccines are needed based on their child's age and state requirements.

Five Things to Do:

  • Call your pediatrician and ask if your child's immunizations are up to date. You can also skip the call and use myTuftsMed, our online patient portal, to see everything in one place.
  • Make an appointment to have your child vaccinated based on their age/grade level. Flu and COVID vaccines are available in September and October.
  • Ask your pediatrician if you can get on a "catch up" schedule to make up for missed immunizations
  • Find out your district's policy about attending school while children are "catching up," awaiting immunization documentation or proof of exemption
  • Schedule next year's well visit to keep your child healthy!

Manage your family's healthcare needs from wherever you are. With myTuftsMed, you get mobile and online access to medical records, test results, appointments, prescriptions and care team messages around the clock.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  • View your child's immunization records.
  • Make appointments for your child at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  • Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  • Keep track of your child's medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.

Access myTuftsMed
Go to or download the myTuftsMed app on your mobile device. You'll need to sign up for a myTuftsMed account if you haven't already.