Back to Top Skip to main content

Vaccinations: Important part of back-to-school checklist

Air Force Senior Airman Antoinette Fowler shows a 4-year-old how to give a vaccination during a teddy bear clinic at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The event taught children about the importance of vaccination and immunization. Getting necessary vaccinations now is as much a rite of going back to school as picking up pencils and paper for the first day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole) Air Force Senior Airman Antoinette Fowler shows a 4-year-old how to give a vaccination during a teddy bear clinic at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The event taught children about the importance of vaccination and immunization. Getting necessary vaccinations now is as much a rite of going back to school as picking up pencils and paper for the first day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health

As a young child in the 1950s, Dr. Limone Collins remembers distinctly his mother taking him by the hand to the local school to get a sugar cube covered with the polio vaccine.

“My mother thought she was doing the greatest thing, because they recently had a president [Roosevelt] who had polio. So it was a real thing to them,” said the retired Army colonel and career pediatrics doctor. “It didn’t take a whole lot to convince her to get her child vaccinated.”

Getting necessary vaccinations now is as much a rite of going back to school as picking up pencils and paper for the first day. Collins has seen every level of the vaccination cycle: from being a child getting his own immunizations, to being a pediatrician, to now chief of vaccine safety and evaluation for the Immunization Healthcare Branch with the Defense Health Agency. For example, while training as a military doctor in the late 1970s at the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he saw firsthand how devastating Haemophilus influenzae type b, better known as Hib, was.

“It wasn’t unusual for us to see children with ailments secondary to Hib, such as meningitis, still a deadly disease to this day, or even one child I saw who developed a heart inflammation,” said Collins. “It was a significant disease responsible for a lot of problems, short and long term.”

Historically, Hib killed 5 percent of children with invasive infections, and nearly 30 percent of survivors suffered hearing loss or another permanent disability. Vaccination changed that.

“If you asked any pediatric or family resident doctor today, ‘How many cases of Hib and its related problems do you see?’ The answer would be zero,” said Collins. “Many pediatricians in the United States have never even seen a case.”

“Vaccines are among the most important accomplishments in medicine,” said Collins’ colleague, Dr. Margaret Ryan, medical director for the Immunization Healthcare Branch’s  Pacific Regional Vaccine Safety Hub. “They’ve saved more lives throughout the world than any other medical invention, including antibiotics or surgery. The safest and best way to acquire immunity is through vaccination.”

But that drop in cases now doesn’t reduce the need for a safe and effective vaccine. An important aspect of immunizations is “herd immunity,” or vaccinating enough people to protect an entire community. This is especially important for those with medical conditions that prevent them from being immunized, or those at high risk of complications from infection, such as the elderly or those on immune system-suppressing drugs for other conditions. Between 80 and 95 percent of the community must be vaccinated for herd immunity to be helpful.

“Some people can’t get vaccinations because of their medical conditions,” said Ryan. “Yet these vulnerable people will still be protected if a very high proportion of their community is vaccinated. This is because, when vaccination rates are high, infectious agents, such as viruses, cannot easily circulate and survive in the population. Everyone ends up better protected.”

For parents sending their children back to school, Military Health System providers follow the same schedule for immunizations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the vaccines recommended for children should be completed before a child starts school. Vaccines to prevent meningitis, human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical and genital cancers, and additional immunizations for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), are recommended for children ages 11 to 12. All children older than six months should get an annual flu shot.

In recent years, some vaccine-hesitant parents have become concerned about the immunizations for their children. Collins said the success of vaccines – the absence now of some of the world’s historically most devastating diseases – has, ironically, undermined the need for immunizations in some people’s minds. Both Collins and Ryan emphasized that it is very important to listen to those parents and answer any questions they might have with the most powerful tool the Military Health System has: information. That’s why the Immunization Healthcare Branch has four Regional Vaccine Safety Hubs, such as the one where Ryan works. Each hub has a clinical staff of doctors, nurses, and immunization health care specialists. The doctors and nurses from the hubs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions through the Immunization Healthcare Support Center at (877) GETVACC (438-8222), option 1.

Air Force Col. Tonya Rans, chief of the Immunization Healthcare Branch, reminds parents of the need and the benefit of getting their children vaccinated.

“There’s the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Rans. “Remember that ounce of prevention many times comes in the form of a small injection carrying a life-saving vaccine.”

You also may be interested in...

Taking care of your heart with TRICARE benefits

February is nationally recognized as American Heart Month, a time for the Department of Defense community to show its love for healthy living.

Getting preventive screenings now could save your life tomorrow

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Preventive Health

Brush, clean in between to build a healthy smile

Jordyn Pafford, sixth grader, receives a dental screening conducted by Capt. James Lee, a general dentist. (U.S. Army photo by Lance D. Davis)

Children who have poor oral health often miss more school

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Dental Care

Stroke prevention awareness

Stroke prevention awareness graphic (U.S. Air Force graphic)

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

2019 TRICARE Winter Safety Kit

TRICARE Winter Safety Kit 2019

This infographic provides tips and information about staying safe and warm during a snow storm.

Recommended Content:

Winter Safety | Health Readiness | Preventive Health

TRICARE Preventive Services

TRICARE Preventive Services

Watch this video to learn more about all the preventive services your TRICARE benefit covers.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Preventive Health

'Fused' technologies give 3D view of prostate during biopsy

Eisenhower Army Medical Center graphic

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics | Preventive Health

Report on Plan to Improve Pediatric Care and Related Services for Children of Members of the Armed Forces

Congressional Testimony

HR 2810, NDAA Conference Report for FY 2018, Sec 733

Recommended Content:

Children's Health

Women’s Health: Taking time for yourself

Navy Lt. Jessica Miller, a nurse at Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s Obstetrics/Gynecology Clinic, discusses cervical cancer screenings with a patient. Starting at age 21, women should get a Pap test every three years. After turning 30, women have a choice. Get a Pap test every three years, or get a Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years. Women should talk with their doctor about options. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

The top two causes of death for women are heart disease and cancer

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Mammograms recommended for early detection of breast cancer

Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, a certified mammogram technician, conducts a mammogram for a patient at Naval Hospital Pensacola. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NHP is taking the opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of breast cancer and the importance of getting checked. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray used to detect the early stages of breast cancer

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: Empowering patients

During September, the Military Health System is encouraging men to learn more about prostate cancer. Patients can discuss with their providers the risks and benefits of a prostate-specific antigen blood test, also known as a PSA test. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

For September’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the Military Health System is encouraging men to learn more about the disease

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health

Paying attention, knowing the signs: How teenagers can help save a life

Air Force Maj. William Logan, a chaplain with the 35th Fighter Wing, holds a picture of his son, Zac, who committed suicide. Suicide among teenagers remains a concern. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter)

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens, young adults

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Children's Health | Suicide Prevention

Stopping bullying takes understanding, involvement

Children can experience social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression as a result of bullying. From the Stop Bullying campaign to Military OneSource, resources are available to help parents and their families identify and address bullying (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

Bullying can leave visible and invisible wounds and have lasting effects on children and teenagers. Signs of the behavior can vary, and bullying others and being bullied are not mutually exclusive, experts say.

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Children's Health | Suicide Prevention

Swimming for good health: Just go with the flow

A midshipman participates in the 500-yard swim portion of a physical screening test as part of the explosive ordnance disposal summer cruise at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Atherton)

Aquatic exercise is a low-impact alternative to running

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Physical Activity

Reduce your risk of running and sports injuries

More than 80 percent of recruit injuries occur to lower body. (Image courtesy Army Public Health Center)

Running is the number one cause of Soldier injuries

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

Battlespace acoustics branch protects hearing, human performance

Dr. Eric Thompson, a research engineer with the Warfighter Interface Division, Battlespace Acoustics Branch, part of the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, sits inside their Auditory Localization Facility. The facility allows researchers to test 3-D audio software that spatially separates sound cues to mimic real-life human audio capabilities. The application allows operators in complex communication environments with multiple talking voices to significantly improve voice intelligibility and communication effectiveness. The technology, which consists primarily of software and stereo headphones, has potential low-cost, high-value application for both aviation and ground command and control communication systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)

We look at how noise is being generated, how it propagates, and what that means for Airmen in the field

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Hearing Loss
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.