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Specific vaccines help your child’s body prepare for and fight against diseases and other illnesses. Under California law, vaccines are required for public school enrollment. Find out more about vaccines, when your child should get them, and the different ways to get them.

Doctor giving baby a flu shot

Vaccines boost kids' immune systems and are the best way to protect them from serious infections and diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis, polio, measles, chicken pox, and whooping cough. Vaccines also are referred to as immunizations. Side effects are mild and can include swelling where the shot was given, a low fever, or fussiness. Consult with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns you may have about vaccines and your child.

What You Need to Know About Vaccinations/Immunizations

Don’t Wait to Vaccinate

  • Childhood vaccinations are safe and have kept kids healthy for more than 50 years.

  • Children should receive their first vaccination at birth with the Hepatitis B shot, which protects infants from Hepatitis B, a serious liver disease.

Stick to the Schedule

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a recommended time schedule for vaccines. Click here to find the most current schedule.

  • Many vaccines require several shots over time to fully protect children from disease. Skipping or delaying shots leaves children at risk of disease for a longer period of time.

  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations for scheduling appointments.

Keep a Record

  • The first time your child receives a vaccination, you’ll get an Immunization Record. Bring this card with you every time your child visits the doctor so it can be updated. 

Comfort Your Child

  • Comfort your child before, during, and after receiving a vaccine shot.

  • Bring your child’s favorite toy or book to the doctor’s office, sing a song, or tell a story to distract your child while receiving a shot.

  • For babies, you may want to feed your baby during the shots to help calm them.

Get Help With Costs

  • If you don’t have health insurance that covers children’s vaccines, look into programs that provide free vaccines to eligible children through Covered CA.

Vaccines and Schools

California law requires children to be vaccinated in order to enter into school. Different vaccines are required at different grade levels. Kindergarten is typically the first entry grade for schooling and thus has specific vaccine requirements. Some medical exemptions for certain vaccines are allowed. Speak with your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about the required vaccines.

When you enroll your child in school, be sure to bring a copy of the proof of vaccinations, or immunization record, to the school.

The California Department of Education (CDE) has the most current school vaccination requirements for enrollment. Click here for the CDE Immunization requirements.

QUICK TIP: Through the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program, children may be eligible for health services, including vaccinations, for free.

For more information and to see if your child is eligible, click here.

First 5 California
Contributed by:
First 5 California
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