Helping Caregivers Understand Immunization Requirements

August 14, 2019


As older kids go back to school and as younger children switch child care, August is National Immunization Awareness month. This is a great time for CCR&Rs to get ready to answer questions parents might have about why immunizations are important and inform them of their state or local immunization requirements. There has been a lot of news lately about the measles outbreak, and this has led to a wider conversation about vaccine requirements at child care centers and homes.

One of the biggest pieces of misinformation is about whether vaccines are safe or if they work. The short version is that they are, and they do! Child care providers can help keep children in their care safe by developing and following program-level vaccination requirements. This is important because vaccines are a safe, reliable way of preventing illness not just for the vaccinated child, but for those around them that have not received their vaccinations yet.

When enough people in a community are vaccinated against an illness (usually 95%), this prevents the virus from spreading easily. We call this ‘community immunity,’ or ‘herd immunity.’ This protects the very small portion of the population that cannot be vaccinated: people with chronic diseases that make their immune system weak, children who are unable to be vaccinated due to complications with their other medications, or children with allergies to specific ingredients in the vaccine. Community immunity also protects infants and very young children when they are too young for their shots and during the time they are getting the series of shots they need for full protection. When the community is immunized, children are less likely to be exposed before they develop their antibodies.

Vaccine Policy Best Practice

There is a lot that CCR&Rs can do to help providers make sure the children they care for are receiving the vaccines they need! Each state has its own vaccination requirements for children. Caring for Our Children (CFOC) recommends that child care facilities “…should require that all parents/guardians of children enrolled in child care provide written documentation of receipt of vaccines appropriate for each child’s age.” CFOC also recommends that CCR&R and child care providers check the Center for Disease Control’s vaccines recommendations every year for the latest national vaccines schedule to update their policies.

Resources for CCR&Rs and Parents

Child care providers and parents may not know where children can get vaccinated affordably. CCR&Rs can help them by sharing some of these great resources to help them get their children vaccinated!

Vaccines for Children Program
Many health care providers participate in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Vaccines For Children (VFC) Program. Contact your local public health department and ask for a referral to a participating provider in your area!

Vaccines for Children offers free or low-cost vaccines to families who are:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Medicaid-eligible: individuals who qualify for and are enrolled in Medicaid
  • Uninsured: individuals who have no insurance coverage
  • Underinsured: individuals who have insurance but it:
    • Doesn’t cover vaccines, or
    • Doesn’t cover certain vaccines, or
    • Covers vaccines but has a fixed dollar limit or cap for vaccines. Once that fixed dollar amount is reached, a child is then eligible.

There may be fees associated with administering the vaccine, and/or for office visits.

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program
Children who are covered by either a traditional Medicaid plan or Medicaid’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are entitled to vaccines. Though Medicaid and CHIP are separate programs that each provide health insurance to different groups based on income, both programs require age-appropriate vaccines to be covered. There may be costs associated with office visits, however. Parents should talk to their health care providers about these costs before vaccinating their children.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Finally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that all plans available to low-income people and families must cover preventative and wellness services, including vaccines for children 0-18. If a parent has purchased insurance through their state Health Insurance Exchange/Marketplace, they should talk to their insurance provider about these benefits.

Topics: Family & Community Engagement, Best Practices

Kati Wilkins

Written by Kati Wilkins

Kati Wilkins, MPH, is the Health Data Analyst for the Child Care Aware® of America’s Health Policy Team. In this role, she analyzes complex data sets on child care health topics, including state regulations, and conducting analysis on the effectiveness of state interventions. She received her Master’s in Science in Public Health from Lund University, Sweden in 2016, where she interned at the World Health Organization, and studied epidemiology and biostatistics.