Keeping children healthy isn't always easy, but immunizations can help to keep serious diseases and illnesses at a minimum.

Immunizations have helped to decrease the risk of many diseases, causing a few serious childhood illnesses to become almost non-existent, said Karen Buchanan, director of nursing at the Jefferson County Health Department. Yet keeping children up-to-date on childhood immunizations continues to be important - and is a requirement of schools.

"The vaccines have worked," Buchanan said.

A reduction in the cases of chickenpox and other childhood illnesses and diseases has been linked to the use of immunizations, she said, and vaccinations have caused the near-elimination of polio. Even though the diseases aren't prevalent anymore, it is still important to vaccinate against them.

"That's a problem when people don't think these diseases are out there anymore," Buchanan said.

By receiving immunizations on time with school requirements, children see a decrease in health problems and in absenteeism. The Jefferson County Health Department visits schools to give age-appropriate, school-required immunizations and flu shots to reduce the amount of time a child might have to spend away from the classroom because of preventable illnesses.

Still, not every child who receives a vaccine against a disease is exempt from ever contracting the illness.

"None of the vaccines are 100 percent protection," Buchanan said, and the list of state-required school immunizations continues to grow as new vaccines are created by medical researchers.

Researchers are also constantly looking for new and more resistant vaccines, she said, while other researchers search for ways to combine vaccines to allow for fewer needle sticks.

Recommended childhood immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begin at birth with the hepatitis B vaccination. Other immunizations are recommended every few months until a child turns a year old. While a child retains the mother's antibodies for up to one year, following the vaccination schedule throughout the first year of life allows a child to be fully immunized by the first birthday.

Many of the other vaccinations throughout childhood and for teenagers will last people throughout their lives without the need to have a "booster" shot to update the body's immunity to the diseases, Buchanan said. Medical professionals recommend that tetanus shots be updated every 10 years and people ages 6 months through adult need a flu shot annually.

While some parents request medical exemptions for their children, most parents follow the recommended guidelines more often than not, Buchanan said.

"Most parents are willing and want to do that," she said.

But some parents worry about side effects from the vaccines that might harm their children.

"The risk from the disease is greater than the risk from the vaccines," she said.

2012-2013 School Entry Immunizations



Below are the number of doses and each vaccine needed for Indiana schools.



3 to 5 years old

3 hepatitis B

4 DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis)

3 polio

1 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

1 varicella



Kindergarten to Grade 2

3 hepatitis B

5 DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis)

4 polio

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

2 varicella



Grades 3 to 5

3 hepatitis B

5 DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis)

4 polio

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

1 varicella



Grades 6 to 12

3 hepatitis B

5 DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis)

4 polio

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

2 varicella

1 Tdap (Tetanus & Pertussis)

1 MCV (Meningococcal)



Below are the numbers of doses and each vaccine needed for Kentucky schools.



4 to 5 years old

4 DTaP or DTP, or combination of the two

3 OPV or IPV, or a combination of the two

4 Hib

3 Hepatitis B

4 PCV

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

2 varicella



5 to 11 years old

5 DTaP or DTP, or combination of the two

4 OPV or IPV, or a combination of the two

3 hepatitis B

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

2 varicella



At Grade 6 entry

1 Tdap (Tetanus & Pertussis)

4 IPV or OPV

3 hepatitis B

2 MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)

2 varicella

1 MCV (Meningococcal) or MPSV