Vaccines help people become immune to diseases without you having to get sick. Making an informed choice about immunization is key to protecting your family’s health. We encourage residents of all ages to get vaccinated according to national recommendations.
Vaccines are carefully developed and monitored for vaccine safety. Before vaccinations, many more people in the U.S. got seriously ill or died of once common diseases such as:
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Bacterial haemophilus influenza type b (hib or H flu)
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
Many diseases that are now rare here still occur in other countries. If you are planning a trip outside of the United States, certain travel vaccinations may be recommended or required depending on where you are traveling.
People of all ages need vaccinations
Some diseases that can be prevented by vaccine still exist in the U.S. because not all children or adults are immunized. Talk to your doctor to make sure you and your children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations.
For more information about specific immunizations, see the CDC’s vaccine information sheets. which explain the benefits and risks of individual vaccines. Other CDC resources include immunization schedules and online scheduling tools that create personalized lists to keep everyone up to date with vaccines.
Vaccines can safeguard your children from many serious - sometimes deadly - diseases. Learn more about the risks of childhood disease from the Department of Health Childhood Immunizations FAQ page or from their publication Plain Talk About Childhood Immunizations (viewable PDF).
To ensure that all children are able to be immunized, the federal Vaccines for Children program provides free vaccines to low income families who may not otherwise have the financial means to pay for childhood immunizations.
Washington State supplements the federal Vaccines for Children program so that all children, ages 19 and under, have access to recommended vaccines at no cost. Providers may charge an administration and/or office visit fee, but the vaccine itself is free. No child will be turned away if the family is unable to afford the additional fees.
Vaccine requirements for school or child care attendance
Since children can be especially vulnerable to disease, and since school settings often make it easy for illness to spread, vaccinations are required for children to enroll in school or child care. Schools are required to report the immunization status of all children who attend.
Information for parents on school vaccine requirements and forms are provided by the state Department of Health, including vaccination schedules and the Certificate of Immunization Status which documents the vaccines that your children have received.
If you have medical, personal, or religious reasons for not getting your child vaccinated, an exemption form can be requested from your child’s healthcare provider.
Members of a church or religious body whose beliefs do not allow for medical treatment from a health care provider can be exempted from school vaccinations. Before you get a vaccination exemption, you must first get information on the risks and benefits of immunization from a health care provider. The provider needs to sign the Certificate of Exemption form or a similar letter.
Children who receive exemptions may not be allowed to attend school if an illness outbreak occurs and they are not vaccinated against it.
Immunizations are just as important for adults as they are for children. Some vaccinations wear off over time and need to be repeated. Others become more important depending on your age, occupation, chronic illnesses, and lifestyle.
Some adults are at extra risk for getting or spreading disease because of your work. Ask your health care provider about additional vaccination recommendations if you are:
- A teacher, or child care worker, or a restaurant worker who prepares or serves food
- A health care provider or emergency medical technician
- A student who plans to enter a health care field
- A long-term care facility employee
- A young adult entering college, traveling, or volunteering
Community vaccination protects the most vulnerable
In addition to protecting the person who gets vaccinated, high immunization rates in a community also provide protection for those who cannot be vaccinated because of restrictions such as age or a weakened immune system. This is called "community immunity" because when most people are vaccinated, a disease cannot spread widely. The community is immune, even when certain people are not.
Whooping cough (pertussis) and chickenpox (varicella) are two diseases that have spread in Snohomish County in recent years in part because not enough people were protected by vaccination.
Extra vaccinations are often recommended for household members or caretakers of people who can't be vaccinated themselves. Let your doctor know if you live with or help take are of:
- An infant
- Someone with chronic illness, such as someone who has chronic hepatitis B
- Someone who is immune-compromised, such as someone who has HIV/AIDS
- Someone undergoing chemotherapy, such as someone with cancer