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Staying up-to-date on the recommended vaccines helps families protect their children from the most serious illnesses.

Vaccines offer effective protection from the major infectious diseases. Because children are especially vulnerable to infection, most vaccines begin in their first year. Dr. Craig Batterman, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says children starting school are required to have specific vaccinations.

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Vaccines are responsible for small pox being eradicated and for diseases such as polio, measles and rubella to nearly disappear as a public health threat in the U.S. Whooping cough, which had been dormant for many years, has recently returned in many areas, so the vaccine is now being recommended for older children, says Dr. Batterman.

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That combination shot is now required for all students going into sixth and ninth grades. Dr. Batterman says vaccines are safe and he urges parents to make sure their children get the required vaccinations at the scheduled times. If they have questions about vaccines, they should talk to their primary care physician, pediatrician or local public health department.

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