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Ask the Doc: How to Get Caught Up on Childhood Immunizations

Image of Samuel Thomas, age 4, gets his COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, becoming the first kid under the age of 5 to get vaccinated against COVID at Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River. As the son of, Capt. David Thomas, the clinic's commanding officer, he wanted to lead by example and show other kids that there's nothing to be scared of. (Photo: Kathy Hieatt). Samuel Thomas, age 4, gets his COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, becoming the first kid under the age of 5 to get vaccinated against COVID at Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River. As the son of, Capt. David Thomas, the clinic's commanding officer, he wanted to lead by example and show other kids that there's nothing to be scared of. (Photo: Kathy Hieatt)

Hi Doc,

I am getting back into a regular schedule for doctor appointments for my children following the pandemic and am worried I may have missed some scheduled vaccinations. How can I get them caught up on recommended vaccines, even if it’s off the normal schedule? Also, my children and I are going on a trip to Europe this summer. What immunizations are recommended for my kids before going on our trip?

— U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Vic Vack

____

Dear Petty Officer 1st Class Vack,

It’s great to hear you want to get your kids caught up on their scheduled vaccinations. Many service members face the same issues. I found just the person to talk to about this. I contacted Dr. David Hrncir, medical director of central region vaccine safety hub for the Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Division. Here's what he said:

Studies show that certain groups of children got very behind on their immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Newborns and infants generally got their vaccines on time. Older children missed some of their doctor visits and the associated vaccinations. Now is the time to schedule those visits and get necessary immunizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically addresses catch-up immunizations for children and adolescents who start their immunizations late or who are more than one month behind, and I strongly recommend using CDC as your guide.

Military beneficiaries can contact the Immunization Healthcare Division support center for help with sorting out missed immunizations and getting a recommended plan for catching back up to an age-appropriate schedule.

A 24/7 support center manned by nurses and physicians is available to address all vaccine concerns. You can contact the support center by telephone or email at: 1-877-GETVACC (1-877-438-8222, option 1) or DODvaccines@mail.mil.

Your civilian and TRICARE-authorized providers can provide recommended vaccinations during your routine office visit. You can always discuss your concerns with your primary care provider or immunization technician.

You can get the catch-up shots at your local TRICARE network pharmacy, your local provider, or a military hospital or clinic. Military beneficiaries can get covered vaccines for free at participating retail network pharmacies when administered by a pharmacist. Call in advance to make sure the site you select has all the vaccines in stock.

As for vaccinations needed for your European trip, CDC has a wonderful website under its Traveler’s Health Destinations section for travel to a large variety of countries. Recommendations cover routine vaccines and other immunizations such as COVID-19, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, and tick-borne encephalitis.

There is also a handy list covering the benefits and risks associated with immunizations, as well as adverse event management and informational resources. These are based on the recommendations of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and are updated as needed.

___

Petty Officer 1st Class, I hope this advice is helpful as you do the right thing to get your kids up to date on their shots and ready for Europe.

Good luck my friend, and as always … take care out there!

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Last Updated: September 06, 2023
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