Behind on Your Vaccines? 4 Steps to Get Back on Track—Safely

Did you miss one, some, or all of the immunizations on the Center for Disease Control’s recommended vaccination schedule? It’s not too late. Follow these steps to get up to date in a safe, timely manner.

Determine What You’re Missing
The CDC has great resources to help you determine the vaccines you need. Use this chart or questionnaire to see what immunizations you should have. If possible, get access to your medical records to find out what doses you missed. If you don’t have access to medical records, try to remember what doses you have (but be sure to disclose this to a healthcare professional before you start a new regimen). A parent or guardian might help you track down these records, or confirm that you’re remembering correctly.  

Determine Your Risks
You may have a  health condition or demographic status that makes certain shots riskier for you than the general population. For example, those 65 and older should avoid the intradermal flu shot, while pregnant women should avoid many vaccines until after birth. It’s vital to  determine how your age, health, and lifestyle might put you at risk before getting vaccinated.

Talk to a Healthcare Professional
It’s a must to talk to a doctor, nurse, or other health professional before you begin your new vaccination regimen. Bring in your list of risk factors, missed shots, and any questions you have after doing your research. Together, the two of you can determine what shots you need and when you need them.

Get Vaccinated!
Congratulations, you’re ready to go! Ask the healthcare professional about the best places in your community to get the immunizations you need. Doctors’ offices, clinics, and pharmacies are great places to start. Worried about paying for all these doses? Check out our guide to paying for vaccines when you’re uninsured or underinsured.

Fascinating Vaccine Ted Talks to Watch Now (And Share With All Your Friends Later)

People are addicted to TED Talks, and it’s no wonder why: Industry experts of all stripes explain ideas that excite them in easy-to-understand terms—and inspire us all to try and change the world. There’s no easier way to learn the latest on any topic, including vaccinations. Start with these 4 talks to become a more informed, up-to-date immunization advocate.

Seth Berkely: The troubling reason why vaccines are made too late… if they’re made at all

Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, explains why there was no Ebola vaccine to help stop the recent outbreak—and what that can teach the immunization community. The crisis demonstrated many important points: how we should prepare for diseases, the danger of taking vaccines for granted, and how scientific findings about one disease (like the flu) can help inform immunizations for another (like Ebola). Finally, he points to the way forward in the fight against global disease.

Dr Adam Finn: How Vaccines Work 

Dr. Adam Finn explains what really makes vaccines work—not just individual immunity, but the herd immunity that is created when a whole community is protected. Using the history of whooping cough epidemics throughout the 20th century, he shows how herd immunity can eradicate diseases, and how those diseases can come roaring back when vaccinations rates fall. But, he says, there is hope. Just like humans can spread disease, we can spread ideas. This talk will help you spread the idea that vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.

Brude Aylward: How We’ll Stop Polio For Good 

The polio vaccine is one of the immunization community’s greatest success stories. Thanks to the immunization, the deadly disease is now completely eradicated in the U.S. But, that’s not the case everywhere, as Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, reminds us. While celebrating how much good the dose has done, he explains how much work is still left and lays out a plan to wipe out the disease for good.

Adam Grosser-A Mobile Fridge for Vaccines 

Vaccine access is taken for granted in the U.S, but many developing nations don’t have the infrastructure to make sure residents can receive these lifesaving  doses. One of the biggest obstacles: Vaccines need to be kept at a cold temperature, and many remote villages don’t have electricity needed to power refrigerators. Adam Grosser, general partner at Foundation Capital, has created a potential solution—a refrigerator that works without electricity.


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Simple Ways to Get Essential Vaccines, Despite Your Ability to Pay

It’s easy to think that you can’t afford vaccines you want and need. But it’s vital that everyone—despite your insurance plan—stick to the Center for Disease Control’s recommended vaccination schedule. The good news? Whether for a child, adult, or senior, plenty of resources can help you find affordable vaccines.  Here are four:

Vaccines for Children
Here’s the best news: Children are covered under the Vaccines for Children Program. Run by the CDC, VFC gives immunizations to kids at no cost to them or their parents. VFC will help  anyone under 19 who is eligible for Medicaid, uninsured, underinsured, or is of native American or Alaskan descent.

Free clinics
Many—but not all—free clinics provide vaccines (check with your local one). Even when they don’t, they’re an invaluable resource in your hunt for affordable doses. Workers at free clinics are experts on local health care options. With their on-the-ground knowledge, they can point you to the best local resources to get the protection that you need. Free clinics may also have a mobile unit that will travel to your neighborhood for easy access. 

Community Health Centers
Community Health Centers provide access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare right in your community. Some community health centers may charge for vaccines, but it’s often done on a sliding scale based on your ability to pay.  Check the HRSA site to see if there’s a Community Health Center near you.

There are a few ways to get vaccinated at a pharmacy. Pharmacists might administer the vaccines themselves, or doctors might be on hand to provide the immunization (either temporarily or by hosting a clinic on an ongoing basis). Vaccines administered by the pharmacist usually have an affordable, all-inclusive price. If the pharmacy hosts a doctor, however, you may be charged for the vaccine and for the clinic visit. Check before sitting down for the appointment.


National Survey Finds Texas Vaccination Rates Dropped Alarmingly: You Can Help #ProtectTexas

Vaccination rates among Texas children ages 19–35 months fell by an alarming 8.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the just-released National Immunization Survey, the Center for Disease Control’s annual assessment of immunization rates.

Vaccine adherence among Texas children aged 19-35 months of age was 64 percent in 2014, compared to 72.5 percent in 2013. The National Immunization Survey is conducted annually and measures children’s adherence to the Center for Disease Control’s recommended vaccination schedule at the state and community levels.

Together, we can take steps to reverse this trend:

  • Identify vaccination gaps: Discuss your child’s vaccination schedule with a pediatrician, as it’s easy to miss certain vaccines, especially those that require multiple doses.
  • Check your coverage: Call your insurance company to see which vaccines are offered under your current plan. If you have any questions, discuss with your insurance provider or clinician’s office.
  • Contact your local immunization coalition: Your local coalition offers resources to make vaccination information easily accessible; check in with them to find vaccine schedules, educational resources, information on receiving appropriate immunizations, and ways to get involved in your community.
  • Broadcast your concern: Use the #ProtectTexas hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to tell the world why you vaccinate your family—and why it’s important that everyone do the same.

5 Reasons You Should Get a Flu Shot Every Year (Even If You Never Get the Flu)

It’s almost flu season, the time of year when flu viruses are circulating at higher than normal levels in the U.S. It can begin as early as October, and go as late as May. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older to get vaccinated at some point during flu season—yet we all know people who shrug their shoulders and say, “eh, I never get the flu. It’s not worth my time.”

In fact, only 42.2% of adults received their flu vaccination during the 2014-2015 season. That annual shot may seem like an afterthought, but it’s vital to your health, and to the health of the public at large. Here’s why:

  • It’s Gross To start, having the flu is just nasty. If you get it, your best case scenario is a combination of fever, sores, aches, chills, and stomach issues. It will make you less productive at work and will put a damper on your social life. That’s reason enough to do everything you can to prevent it.
  • It’s Fatal (Sometimes) Don’t forget: The flu can put you in the hospital or, worse yet, be fatal. The outcome is rare for young, healthy people, but it’s possible. Why risk it?
  • It Protects Others Even if you aren’t at risk personally, you can protect others by getting your flu shot. A whopping 90 percent of flu deaths are those 65 or older; widespread vaccination protects this group. Do it for your grandma.
  • It Lessens Fatalities Flu vaccinations effectively reduce severe outcomes. In the 2011-2012 flu season, vaccines were associated with a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and a 77 percent reduction among adults 50 years of age and older.
  • It’s Different Every Year Yeah, it’s annoying to get a flu shot every year. But it’s essential for two reasons: The antibodies produced in your body from the vaccine decline as time goes on, so the shot is less likely to protect you a year after receiving it.  And flu viruses mutate rapidly. Because of this, the formulation of the vaccines is reviewed each year and updated to protect against new strains. An annual shot is necessary to keep a fever, or worse, from ruining your holidays.

Because the flu is so nasty and spreads so quickly, the CDC and healthcare professionals urge people to be vaccinated as early as possible. Ideally, you should be vaccinated by October, because the shot takes two weeks before it is fully effective. A lot of people don’t get the shot during this initial push, and they think it’s too late. But the shot will be offered at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers throughout flu season; it’s never too late. Not being immunized early is no reason to sit out the whole year. Most flu seasons peak in January or later, so there is plenty of time to get the shot and be protected against the worst of it.

The flu shot is a crucial part of your health regimen. If you have a regular doctor or nurse, talk to them about getting one ASAP.  If you don’t see a healthcare professional regularly, there are a lot of other options. Pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and the health centers at your college or workplace are good places to look. Any option works as long as you get the shot.

Vaccines Every College Student Needs Before the First Day of Class

study-763571_1280Books, furniture, student ID…vaccines? If you’re heading to college for the first time, immunizations should be at the top of your to-do list. College students live in close quarters, and young adults are also due for boosters on many vaccines they received during childhood. Make sure you’re up to date on the CDC’s entire recommended schedule by talking with a healthcare professional. Start by asking about these five:

This vaccine protects against bacterial meningitis, which inflames the protective membrane around the brain and spinal chord and can have life threatening consequences. The disease can be spread when people are in close quarters, so if it’s your first year on a college campus, definitely make sure you’ve received this vaccine. If you already received it as a child, you’re not off the hook; you should get a booster if you got the shot before your 16th birthday. 


This vaccine protects against, tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends it for kids, adults, and pregnant women during the third trimester. One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. If you didn’t get Tdap then, you should get it as soon as possible. A Td vaccine protects against tetanus and diptheria, and a booster is recommended for every 10 years. Students that took time off between high school and college may be due for their next dose.


If you did not get all three doses of this immunization at 11 or 12, when the CDC recommends it, you should be sure to get it before starting college. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer in women and cancer of the throat, anus, and penis in men, but only 34.4 percent of adolescent girls and 20.1 percent of adolescent boys have received all three doses. Though it’s most effective when administered as a preteen, women under 27 and men under 22 should still receive the vaccine. If you’re outside that age range, you should discuss your options with a healthcare professional.


Flu shot
The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone. College students are especially vulnerable to the illness; you’ll be living in close quarters, sharing bathrooms and workout facilities, and likely not getting enough sleep. But there’s good news: The flu vaccine works best among healthy young adults. If you stay up to date you’ll keep that missed class and social time to a minimum.


Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can result in long-term consequences for your liver. It’s a blood-borne illness, so it can be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Again, the close quarters rule applies; there’s simply a greater chance of this happening on a college campus, so prevention is key. Most babies receive the Hep B vaccine before leaving the hospital, but if you did not receive it as a baby, you will want to discuss with your doctor. 


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Your Weekly Dose: August 6, 2015

A (not-for-profit!) malaria vaccine is on its way, the Surgeon General speaks out about the efficacy of vaccines, and 2015 flu vaccines are on the way. Plus: eight must-know facts about immunizations.

The World’s First Malaria Vaccine is Coming: This might be the best news we’ve heard all week. A malaria vaccine is on its way, and it will be entirely not-for-profit. How’s that for an answer to prayers? [Good]

Because, #VaccinesWork: Aggressive measles vaccination in Amish communities in 2014 reduced the transmission of measles dramatically—proving once again that vaccines do, indeed work. [PR Newswire]

The Surgeon General Responds: Dr. Vivek Murphy spoke out about a petition in opposition of SB277: “We all have a role to play. Vaccinations are one of the great triumphs of science and public policy, and we should make their benefits available to everyone.” []

2015 Flu Vaccines Are Ready: The U.K.-based drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline started shipping its flu vaccines to US pharmacies this week—meaning it’s just about time to schedule your flu vaccine appointment. [Modern Healthcare]

California Paves The WayCalifornia’s stringent new vaccination law (it prohibits religious and personal-belief vaccine exemptions) may serve as the model for legislatures around the country. [Patch]

8 Facts You Must Know About Vaccines: Immunizations prevent 2.5 million deaths per year, access to vaccines is difficult in many countries, and we’re losing money by not vaccinating every single eligible child. [Upworthy]

4 Ways You Can Become a Vaccine Advocate (And Why It Matters)

Your immunizations are up to date. Your kids are on track to receive all of their required and recommended vaccines before school starts. You’ve even scheduled your 2015-2016 flu shot appointments (you overachiever, you).

Your job is done, right? Not so fast.

We applaud you for taking the necessary steps to protect your family from preventable diseases, but there’s even more we can all do to support healthy immunization practices and policies nationwide. Thanks to social media, local immunization coalitions, and good old-fashioned email writing, it’s easier than ever to become a pro-vaccine advocate—in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, here are five easy ways that you, too, can advocate to make these life-saving medicines broadly available and easily accessible.

Together, let’s prevent what’s preventable.

Participate in National Immunization Awareness Month: Since 2007, the Center for Disease Control has dubbed August National Immunization Awareness Month. The annual campaign educates the public on the importance of vaccines and invites all of us to become community advocates for vaccine awareness and utilization. The easiest way to join in the conversation? Follow #NIAM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and amplify the messages, facts, and info the CDC and The Immunization Partnership send out.

Work With Your Local Immunization Coalition: Contact your local immunization coalition (nearly every state has one) to find out how they’re participating in National Immunization Awareness Month. Get involved on a grassroots level to make a difference where it matters most to you—right at home.

Engage Your Legislators: You don’t have to be a lobbyist or a doctor or even old enough to vote to ask your congressmen to support vaccine-positive bills. Start by registering for The Immunization Partnership’s legislative alerts, which track immunization laws and policies around Texas. Then peruse our legislative resources, a collection of guides that make it simple (and effective) to support pro-vaccine bills—including sample thank you notes, typical scripts for legislative meetings, and how-tos for finding and contacting your local representatives.

Educate Yourself: Seek out the many educational programs, conferences, and webinars that immunization coalitions and nonprofits (including The Immunization Partnership!) host throughout the year. Can’t sneak away during your lunch hour? Start by perusing TIP’s archived webinars and lunch ‘n’ learns on your own time. They cover a number of actionable topics, including tips for responding to vaccine-hesitant parents, tools for working with legislators, and practical strategies for improving HPV vaccination rates in your community.

Vaccines You Need Before Visiting a Newborn

Courtesy of Ruebus Designs on Etsy.

Courtesy of Ruebus Designs on Etsy.

Meeting a friend or relative’s newborn soon? In all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that newborns will not receive certain vaccinations until they are a bit older. You need to think about your immunizations so you don’t expose your new favorite person to infectious diseases.

Before meeting that bundle of joy, chat with a healthcare provider and make sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccination schedule. Here are a few to be aware of.

Because it was only approved in 2005, many people aren’t aware they need this vaccine. Even if you have received the shot, a booster is required every 10 years. TDAP protects against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (or whooping cough). The last one is especially dangerous for newborns; they’re at a higher risk for life-threatening complications from whooping cough than any other demographic.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Newborns receive the first dose of most vaccines around one or two months, but the first MMR dose isn’t recommended until twelve months; that’s a long time to be vulnerable. With the recent spike in measles outbreaks, it’s more important than ever to be up to date on this vaccine.

This is another dose most infants don’t get until six months. Many adults skip their flu shot (adherence was only 46.2% during the 2014-2015 flu season), but this is one of the reasons it’s so important to get your annual dose. Newborns are at high risk for life threatening complications from the flu, and you want to avoid passing it on to them.

This shot protects against the chicken pox, but even if you’ve already had the chickenpox, make sure you’re up to date. You may be immune to the disease, but you could still carry it and pass it on to the child. This immunization isn’t recommended until twelve months, so infants are vulnerable to the illness for an especially long time.

This is a trio of shots that protect against bacterial meningitis. The first dose isn’t recommended for children until they’re 11 years old; infants have a higher risk than any other group of developing a severe infection. These two facts mean one thing for you: Make sure you’re up to date on these immunizations. You’ll protect not only infants but also all kids who can’t be immunized yet.

Travel Health: Immunizations You Need Before That Big European Vacation

A man on a bridge in Venice, Italy

You’ve booked the flights and reserved the hotels, but are your vaccinations up to date?  Photo credit: Unsplash/3828 images

Heading to Europe this summer? It’s easy to think that because developed countries in Europe have similar vaccine recommendations to the U.S., you can skip a doctor’s visit before that big trip. But that’s not necessarily true. Even if you got all your shots as a kid, you still might need boosters as an adult—especially because vaccine adherence is lower in some European countries than it is stateside.

Your game plan? Chat with a healthcare provider, make sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccination schedule, and check if any additional vaccinations are recommended for your vacation destinations. Here are a few to ask about:

Outbreaks of the measles have been making headlines here lately, but the problem is even worse in Europe. There were 3,840 cases of measles in Europe last year. Germany and Italy have particularly high rates of the disease. Regardless of your destination, make sure your MMR status is up to date before you leave.

The TDAP vaccine was only licensed in 2005, so there’s a good chance you missed it as a kid.  Even if you did get it, you need a booster dose every 10 years. The vaccine has become a part of the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule, so get it before you leave.

Hepatitis A
Though risk for Hep A is low in most of Europe, the CDC cautions that outbreaks can occur anywhere in the world, and there is always the risk of contracting the disease through contaminated food or water. In some European destinations (Croatia and the Czech Republic among them), the risk is higher than in the U.S.; the CDC recommends the vaccine for most travelers in those places.

This is one major difference between European and American vaccine recommendations: An annual flu shot is recommended for all adults in the U.S, but not a single European country does the same. You don’t want to spend your vacation stuck in bed with the chills; get that flu shot before you go.

Typhoid, polio, yellow fever, rabies
Because these diseases are present in less developed areas, a lot of people don’t think of them when they’re going to Europe; but the CDC recommends them for many destinations in Eastern Europe. You should also ask about these immunizations if you’ll be participating in outdoor activities, are taking an extended trip, or will be staying with locals. Check this CDC resource to see if it’s recommended for your destination.