It’s a simple fact that children who attend childcare centers are at greater risk for exposure to infectious diseases than children cared for at home – more children, more parents, more child care providers - means more risk.
So parents, childcare center providers, and healthcare providers must work together to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in childcare settings. Proper hand washing by everyone involved and keeping the childcare environment clean are important strategies.
But making sure that all children (and staff!) in child care settings are up-to-date on recommended immunizations (vaccinations) is the single, most effective strategy to prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases. This includes seasonal influenza!
Vaccines are powerful because they are effective in two important ways.
First, vaccines provide protection for the individual who is immunized, helping prevent against infectious disease (like measles) that may be circulating in a child care setting.
Second, when a group of individuals – such as children who attend the same child care center – are immunized against an infectious disease (influenza or “flu”, for example) the group can also benefit from what is called “herd” or community immunity. Herd (community) immunity is not perfect, and works best when a very high percentage of the group is immunized! But its effect helps limit or stop the circulation of disease in a specific setting, providing additional protection for everyone.
Since no vaccine provides 100% protection for the disease it is designed for, assuring that every child is up-to-date on their immunizations helps strengthen herd immunity and helps protect everyone better.
Pennsylvania requires that children who are in child care settings must be up-to-date on recommended immunizations (with certain exceptions for medical issues and religious objections). Child care centers are required to keep records of the immunization status of children in their care.
Child care providers have a responsibility to assure that staff members who have direct contact with children in their care are fully immunized. Parents have a right to inquire about the immunization status of those providing care to their children.
Pennsylvania requires certain screening, TB testing and a physical exam before any staff member can provide child care. Each teacher and staff member also has a responsibility to protect the children in their care, and their co-workers, by keeping their own vaccinations current. Doing so avoids spreading infectious disease to others.
The number of vaccines recommended for children at different ages has grown in recent years, with each new vaccine receiving careful scientific review for safety and effectiveness. But understanding the recommended vaccine schedule for kids – and keeping them current with their immunizations – can be a challenge.