For Immediate Release
August 9, 2011

State education and health agencies remind parents to get children vaccinated before starting school

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

SPRINGFIELD ― The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are reminding parents to be sure their children's immunizations are up-to-date as more than 2 million Illinois students head back to school. Health providers have named August National Immunization Awareness Month to remind parents to address this important health issue before students return to classes.

“Vaccines help ensure students are returning to the classrooms healthy and ready to learn, ” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “It's important that all students as well as school administrators, teachers and other staff be immunized to stay healthy and active this school year.”

National Immunization Awareness Month is celebrated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and 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 varicella (chickenpox), 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 visits, hospitalizations and even premature deaths.

“Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease in the United States, parents are often unaware their children are still at risk for many serious and life-threatening diseases,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold. “There are some children who cannot be vaccinated for either medical reasons or they are still too young, so it is important parents continue to have their children vaccinated. 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.”

According to the CDC, most immunizations are administered before a child is 2-years old; however, between ages 4 and 6, 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, Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib), hepatitis B and varicella.

In addition to immunizations, all students enrolling in kindergarten in a public or private school and any student enrolling for the first time in Illinois (with the exception of preschoolers) 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 children must complete a physical examination prior to entering Illinois schools for the first time, prior to the date of entering kindergarten or first grade, prior to entering sixth grade, and prior to entering ninth grade. The physical exam includes gender and date of birth; an evaluation of height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat, mouth/dental; cardiovascular (including blood pressure), respiratory, gastrointestinal, genito-urinary, neurological, and musculoskeletal evaluations; spinal examination; evaluation of nutritional status; lead screening; and other evaluations deemed necessary by the health-care provider.

Illinois' health exam requirements are aligned with recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on adolescent vaccinations, including Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), meningococcal and HPV (human papillomavirus).

For additional information about immunizations in Illinois, visit: