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Immunizations: Are You Up to Date on Vaccines?


Walt Larimore, M.D.

August is back-to-school month for most children. August is also National Immunization Month. And, in order for your children to become highly healthy you must be well-informed about the facts about immunizations.

It seems that almost every month newspaper articles and television programs depict the horrors of vaccines. The villains of these stories are greedy vaccine manufacturers, disinterested doctors, and burdensome regulatory agencies.

The focus of most of these stories is that children are hurt unnecessarily by vaccines—and the tone is usually one of intrigue and cover-up—of controversy and conspiracy.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of these stories (apart from the fact that they may cause many children to miss the potentially life-saving vaccines they need) is that the explanations are presented in a manner that seem believable.

I recommend the moms of my patients be aware of the most commonly aired stories about vaccines and learn to separate fact from myth. This website can help you do that. 

In the United States, vaccines have dramatically reduced diseases such as whooping cough, mumps, polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and chicken pox. Because we have so little experience with these diseases today, it is easy to forget how serious theses illnesses can be.

In our well-traveled and well-populated world vaccines are necessary to your child’s health. Parents who refuse to vaccinate, wrongly think that their children are probably safe without the vaccine, and that their refusal does not affect other children.

It is true that these diseases currently occur in small numbers, and chances are low that any child—vaccinated or not—will get the disease. However, as increasing numbers of parents choose not to vaccinate, everything changes.

When vaccination levels fall below 90 percent or so in any given region, parents who do not vaccinate their children put their children and other unvaccinated children at higher risk for illness.

So what vaccines does your child need?

The list changes as our nations scientists and physicians analyze trends and discover new preventions. Below is a chart that will help you understand the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations for 2009.

Several changes have been made to the vaccination schedule since 2004 and are included in the current 2009 immunization schedule below.

Review the changes, go over the CDC's vaccination charts and visit your doctor to make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date.

Vaccination Changes since 2004

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) is recommended for adolescents aged 11-18 years instead of the old dT (diphtheria, tetanus) vaccine. By the way, this same shot is recommended for all adults every ten years.

Meningococcal conjugate vaccine MCV4 (Meningitis) should be administered to all children at age 11-12 years as well as to unvaccinated adolescents at high school entry. All college freshmen living in dormitories should also be vaccinated with MCV4 or meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4).

Hepatitis A vaccine is a two-shot series now universally recommended for all children at age 12-23 months. Children who are not vaccinated by 2 years of age can be vaccinated at later visits.

There are two brands of rotavirus vaccine. Both vaccines are effective. Your baby could get either 2 or 3 doses, depending on which brand is used. Your provider can tell you which brand your baby will be getting. The doses are recommended at these ages: First Dose: 2 months of age Second Dose: 4 months of age Third Dose: 6 months of age (if needed) The first dose may be given as early as 6 weeks of age, and should be given by age 14 weeks 6 days. The last dose should be given by 8 months of age.

The 2010-2011 schedule calls for routine annual influenza vaccination for children aged 6 months and older.  The previous recommendation was for vaccination of children from 6 months through 18 years old.  And, I recommend it (in either the shot or nasal spray form) every year for all children and adults. A recommendation that children younger than 9 years of age who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time, or who were vaccinated for the first time during the previous season but only received one dose, should receive two doses of influenza vaccine at least four weeks apart.

Varicella (chicken pox) vaccine recommendations are updated. The first dose should be administered at age 12-15 months, and a newly recommended second dose should be administered at age 4-6 years.

The human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) is a three-shot series recommended for girls aged 11-12 years; and a catch-up vaccination is recommended for girls aged 13-26.  It may be given to girls starting at the age of 9.

Those who should get the yellow fever vaccine include, people 9 months through 59 years of age traveling to or living in an area where risk of yellow fever is known to exist, or traveling to a country with an entry requirement for the vaccination.

MMRV vaccine may be given to children from 1 through 12 years of age to protect them from these four diseases. Two doses of MMRV vaccine are recommended: The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. These are recommended ages. But children can get the second dose up through 12 years as long as it is at least 3 months after the first dose. Children may also get these vaccines as 2 separate shots: MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and varicella vaccines. 1 Shot (MMRV) or 2 Shots (MMR & Varicella). Both options give the same protection. One less shot with MMRV. Children who got the first dose as MMRV have had more fevers and fever-related seizures (about 1 in 1,250) than children who got the first dose as separate shots of MMR and varicella vaccines on the same day (about 1 in 2,500). Your health-care provider can give you more information, including the Vaccine Information Statements for MMR and Varicella vaccines. Anyone 13 or older who needs protection from these diseases should get MMR and varicella vaccines as separate shots. MMRV may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Abbreviations for rotavirus, pneumococcal polysaccharide and meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines have been changed.

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.  

References:

For more information on the 2011 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules for persons aged 0-6 years, 7-18 years, and "catch-up schedule,” please visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/child-schedule.htm.

"Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years --- United States."cdc.gov. July 23, 2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 

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