Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center
Back-to-School Immunizations 



Newly arrived refugees are at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases due to under-immunization. Recent cases [1,2] of vaccine-preventable diseases and studies [3,4] regarding rates of vaccinations among refugees underscore this risk. At the same time, reports of outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) continue throughout the U.S. often in states with high concentrations of refugees who may be susceptible to pertussis [5]. Therefore, it is important to ensure that refugee adults and children receive immunizations according to the vaccine schedules of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).


Newly arrived refugees should have a full assessment of immunization needs and provision of recommended vaccines during their refugee health assessments shortly after arrival. Clinicians should carefully scrutinize overseas vaccine records to ensure that antigens are complete (e.g. vaccination only for measles instead of measles, mumps, and rubella), dates are valid (including month, day, and year), and schedules follow ACIP guidelines. Follow-up vaccination should be continued by primary care clinicians.


In anticipation of school starting, summer is an opportune time to make sure that refugee children are being caught up with missing vaccinations. Similarly, the process of applying for permanent resident status (i.e. a green card) can be used to promote completion of vaccination in adults. All refugees, especially parents of school-age children, should be informed about the importance of completing immunization requirements for their health, future immigration status changes, school entry, and daycare attendance.



  1. Brief report: Imported case of congenital rubella syndrome - New Hampshire. CDC. MMWR. 2005.
  2. Measles outbreak associated with an arriving refugee - Los Angeles County, California. CDC. MMWR. 2011.
  3. Lack of immunization documentation in Minnesota refugees: Challenges for refugee preventive health care. Lifson AR, Thai D, Hang K. J Immigr Health. 2001.
  4. Immunization status of refugee children after resettlement.  Watts DJ, Friedman JF, Vivier PM, Tompkins CE, Alario AJ. Med Health RI. 2011. 
  5.  Pertussis epidemic - Washington, 2012. CDC. MMWR. 2012.    


Upcoming RHTAC Webinars


Refugee Women's Health: Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Thursday, September 13, 2012 | 12:00-1:30pm EDT

Details: This clinician-focused webinar will present an overview of refugee women's health and challenges faced by healthcare professionals in providing culturally competent reproductive health care and family planning. CECs available.
Register now > 

Follow 2012 ORR National Consultation on Twitter!

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Twitter account makes it easy to receive news on the 2012 ORR Consultation. On September 19th and 20th, ORR and several refugee organizations including RHTAC will be live tweeting from the Consultation using the hashtag #ORR2012. Stay updated by following ORR @USRefugee and RHTAC @RefugeeHealthTA.

Syria Emergency

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners are working around the clock to assist and protect Syrians, Iraqis, and other third country national refugees displaced by the violence in Syria. Visit UNHCR's website to access information for asylum seekers, refugees with pending resettlement cases, immigrant visa applicants, and U.S. family members concerned for their relatives in Syria.    

Affordable Care Act & Refugee Health


School is a place where refugee children learn, make new friends, and begin the process of integration into American society. For those who attend a school with a school-based health center, it also serves as a place to receive health care. School-based health centers typically provide a combination of primary care, mental health care, substance abuse counseling, case management, dental health, nutrition education, and health education, with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.    


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sets aside $200 million from 2010 to 2013 for construction, renovation, and equipment needs of school-based health centers. As of December 2011, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration released $109 million in awards to fund school-based health centers in 46 jurisdictions including states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. This ACA funding created new school-based health centers and expanded primary and preventative health services at existing sites. The recipients of 2011 funding are expected to serve an additional 440,000 students thanks to ACA funding.


Locate ACA-funded school-based health centers in your area >  


Find out more about the ACA >


ACA Resources  

Upcoming Events & Trainings 


Office of Refugee Resettlement 2012 National Consultation 

Registration closes August 31. Follow on Twitter #ORR2012.  

September 19-20, 2012, Arlington, VA 

Presented by: U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement


National Immigrant Integration Conference

September 22-25, 2012, Baltimore, MD

Presented by: The National Partnership for New Americans


6th International Conference on Health Issues in Arab Communities

Oct 16-17, 2012, Dearborn, MI
Presented by: ACCESS Community Health & Research Center


2012 National Refugee and Immigrant Conference: Issues and Innovations

October 18-19, 2012, Chicago, IL

Presented by: Adult Learning Resource Center


The Eighth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations

March 11-14, 2013, Oakland, CA  

Presented by: DiversityRx  


View more events and trainings > 

Funding Opportunities 

U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Due Jan 7, 2014. Suggested research areas include: biobehavioral studies of multiple factors that influence child health disparities, studies that target specific health promotion needs of children with known illness and/or disability, and/or studies that test and evaluate comparative effectiveness of health promotion interventions.

RHTAC is a project of the Refugee and Immigrant Health Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience at Children's Hospital Boston, the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, the Cultural Orientation Resource Center at Center for Applied Linguistics, and JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. RHTAC is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Grant #90RB0042.    


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Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15) Packet 

Pathways to Wellness    

RHS-15 is a tool for screening refugees for emotional distress and mental health. Translated into Spanish, Somali, Russian, Arabic, Burmese, Karen, and Nepali.   
Explains ACA's implications on women, including women's health and preventive care, expanded insurance coverage, and ACA's effect on family health.

Bridging Refugee Youth & Children's Services
Multilingual resources for resettled refugees on family life and parenting, early childhood, U.S. school system (K-12), children's books, and health and mental health.


Pediatric Mental Health Handouts

National Association of School Psychologists  Multilingual handouts and materials include tips for children and parents on coping with unsettling times, anxiety, bullying, and more.


View more resources > 



Webinar Archive   

Promising Practices in Domestic Health Orientation 

July 11, 2012


Making CLAS Happen

June 20, 2012 


Refugee Mental Health Screening: Operationalizing the RHS-15

May 23, 2012 



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