School starts in a matter of weeks, and state health officials are reminding parents to make sure their children's immunizations are up to date.
More than 2 million schoolchildren head back to the classroom in August, which has been declared National Immunization Awareness Month.
Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the best way to protect children against serious diseases. But some children still don't get vaccinated, because of medical conditions or other reasons, so it's important to ensure your child is protected, health officials say.
Polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough and diphtheria are easily preventable with vaccines, and contracting them could result in doctor's visits, missed school days, hospitalization or even premature death.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is urging parents to contact their physicians to see what immunizations their children may need.
Most are administered before children are 2 years old. But they need several boosters between ages 4 and 6, before entering kindergarten. And children between 12 and 15 years old might also be due for boosters.
In Illinois, proof of up-to-date immunizations is required for children entering any grade. Required immunizations include diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, rubella, mumps, Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib), hepatitis B and varicella.
Besides immunizations, all students enrolling in kindergarten in a public or private school and any student enrolling for the first time in Illinois must have an eye examination by a licensed optometrist or a doctor who performs eye exams.
And all children must have a physical before entering Illinois schools for the first time, and before entering kindergarten or first grade, sixth grade and ninth grade.
The state deadline for all three is Oct. 15, though individual school districts can set earlier deadlines. Officials advise families not to wait, as children can be kept out of school if they don't have the required shots or physicals.
"If they have not already made their appointment, they need to do it,” said Diane Pritchard, attendance center manager at Robeson Elementary School in Champaign.
Dental exams are also required in kindergarten, second and sixth grades, but the deadline is in the spring, she said.
For more information about immunizations in Illinois, visit:
- IDPH’s Illinois Immunization Program: http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/shots.htm 
- The CDC Immunization page:http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/default.htm 
Photo: Ayonna Britt winces as she gets a shot from University of Illinois nursing student Kim Buzecky during a 2006 immunization clinic at Garden Hills Elementary School in Champaign. News-Gazette file photo