For Immediate Release
July 31, 2008

ISBE & IDPH remind parents about back-to-school immunizations


Importance of immunizations highlighted in August during National Immunization Awareness Month

SPRINGFIELD —The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are reminding parents during National Immunization Awareness Month to be sure their children’s immunizations are up-to-date as more than two million students statewide start heading back into the classroom in August. The month-long national awareness campaign is dedicated to increasing awareness about immunizations and coincides with students returning to the classroom.

“Making sure that all students are properly vaccinated for the upcoming school year is another step in ensuring their success both inside and outside the classroom,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “School administrators, teachers and other staff, as well as students, need to be immunized so they can protect themselves and others.”

National Immunization Awareness Month is celebrated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations in August and annually highlights one of the most important ways parents can protect their children against serious diseases. The goal is to increase awareness about immunizations for infants, school children, college-bound students, adults and the elderly.

Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century, according to the CDC. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough and diphtheria carry with them certain costs, such as sick children missing school and causing parents to miss work. These diseases also result in doctor’s visits, hospitalizations and even premature deaths.

"Vaccines are the most important, successful and cost effective way to protect children against numerous illnesses. Not only do children need a series of vaccinations, starting at birth, to be fully protected against 14 childhood diseases by the time they reach two years of age, they also need additional vaccinations as they enter and continue through school,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “I encourage parents to check with their physician or local health department about what vaccines are needed and what immunizations their child has already received. The bottom line is, vaccines help prevent infectious diseases and save lives."

According to the CDC, most immunizations are administered before a child is two-years-old; however, between ages four and six, prior to entering kindergarten, children are due for several booster shots. Children between 12 and 15 years of age might be due for booster shots, too. Childhood vaccines prevent diseases and protect children who come into contact with unvaccinated people.

In Illinois, proof of up-to-date immunizations is required for children entering any grade. Required immunizations include diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B and varicella.

In addition to immunizations, all students now enrolling in kindergarten in a public or private school and any student enrolling for the first time in Illinois must have an eye examination. The eye exam must be performed by a licensed optometrist or medical doctor who performs eye exams and is licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. All eye exams must be completed within one year prior to Oct. 15.

Also, all Illinois children must complete a health examination prior to entering the sixth grade of any public or private school, as opposed to entering the fifth grade. The physical exam includes an evaluation of: height, weight, blood pressure, skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat, mouth/dental, cardiovascular (including blood pressure), respiratory, gastrointestinal, genitor-urinary, neurological, musculoskeletal, spinal examinations, nutritional status, lead screening and other evaluations deemed necessary by the examiner.

The change now makes Illinois’ requirements align with recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on adolescent vaccinations, including Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), meningococcal and HPV (human papillomavirus). Pediatricians saw this as a better fit with current health care practices for developmental exams.

To ease the burden for parents and healthcare providers, a student that received a health exam within one year prior to starting the fifth grade in the 2007-2008 school year is not required to receive an additional health exam when the student attends school for the 2008-2009 school year, unless the student is starting school for the first time.

For additional information about immunizations in Illinois, visit: