Why Are Vaccines Required Before My Child Goes to School?

Paul A. Offit, MD, talks about the three-step process involved in making vaccines required: evaluation, licensure and recommendation process.


Why are vaccines required before my child goes to school?

Paul Offit, MD:  Hi, my name is Paul Offit, and I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I think a common question that we get asked before children go to school, parents want to know what vaccines are required. “Which ones do I really have to get?”

And it's important I think here to step back and take a look at the three-step process that is involved with vaccines. The first is that when a company makes a vaccine, they generate the … they look at tens of thousands of children who either did or didn’t get that vaccine to prove that it’s safe and prove that it’s effective. They then submit all those data, all those studies, to the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, which then licenses the product. What that means now is the company has a license to sell the product.

The second part of the process, and probably the most important part, is the so-called recommendation stage. So here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as CDC, has a group called the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices that looks at all that information and says, “Here’s who I think can most benefit from this vaccine. Here’s the number of doses that are required, and here’s the age group in which it should be given.”

Another group called the Committee of Infectious Diseases within the American Academy of Pediatrics does the same thing, as does the American Academy of Family Practitioners. So together those groups have the expertise to look at the information and say, “Here’s who would most benefit from the vaccines.” That’s it. I think that’s all parents need to know.

Now there are certain districts, or regions, or states that have requirements for one vaccine or another. And I think parents, frankly, mistakenly think that because one vaccine might be required, but another vaccine might not be required, that that means the one that’s required is more important. But that’s really not true. I think that once a vaccine has been recommended to be given by, for example, the CDC, then that … a parent should be reassured that it’s important then to give that vaccine.

So I think it’s a difference between licensure, recommendation, and so-called mandates, with mandates being really the least important component.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Apr 23, 2015