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Immunizations are critically important for disease prevention

Let’s ensure the continued safety of our children

April 21, 2013
Messenger News

This is topic that causes a great deal of concern for many parents - both new, as well as "old, experienced" ones. Many parents wonder specifically:

1. Why are there now so many immunizations for children?

2. Why do children need immunizations against hepatitis?

3. Why do children need immunizations against HPV?

4. Do immunizations cause autism?

5. Will so many immunizations at one time overpower the child's immune system?

Fact Box

Useful resources

Food and Drug Administration

www.fda.gov 1-888-463-6332

Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention

www.cdc.gov 1-800-232-4636

National Institutes of Health

www.nih.gov 1-800-370-2943

American Academy of Pediatrics

www.aap.org 1-847-434-4000

American Academy of Family Practice

www.aafp.org 1-800-274-2237

American College of Obstetricians

and Gynecologists

www.acog.org 1-202-638-5577

6. Could kids receive the immunizations on a different schedule, so they don't need so many shots at a time?

7. Is it dangerous to have a large number of un-immunized patients in a medical practice?

1. Why are there now so many immunizations for children?

The great success that health organizations have had in eradicating polio in most areas of the world has encouraged researchers to develop vaccines against as many preventable diseases as possible. Immunizations, like all areas of medicine, are not perfect; but, the significant positive effects on the general health of the world cannot be ignored. The technology exists to develop vaccines against many previous scourges of humanity. There are many people around now who still remember the devastating effect polio had on every community. I remember the almost daily significance of HIB disease during my time as a resident in pediatric training. These are diseases that many doctors today will never see because of the profound success of worldwide immunization programs.

2. Why do children need immunizations against hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a significant disease of the liver that can be prevented relatively easily with the 3-shot regimen for Hep-B and the 2 shot Hep-A. Parents feel that the likelihood of exposure to Hepatitis A, or B, for their child, is minimal. This is a reasonable thought by parents. However, the ease of preventing a disease this significant, with a simple immunization, seems to dictate preventive vaccination; especially since the Hepatitis B is now included in many poly-vaccines. There are also new immunizations which will include both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B in a single injection.

3. Why do children need immunizations against HPV?

HPV prevention is another disease that parents have many questions about. HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the virus that causes genital warts, as well as 80-90 percent of the cervical cancer that we see. "Why does my child need prevention at 10 years of age, she is not sexually active," many parents ask. HPV vaccine is presently the only preventive vaccine we have against any cancer. The prevalence of HPV in both males and females is continuing to increase at a dramatic rate. The ability to provide prevention against this major cancer dictates early immunization. The vaccine has recently been approved for males, and we are recommending prophylactic immunizations for boys in our office.

4. Do immunizations cause autism?

The question of immunizations and their relationship to the incidence of autism is one loaded with emotion. The initial studies upon which these claims were made have since been shown to be in error, and retracted. There is no evidence from the many researchers in this area that the immunizations themselves, or the mercury that was contained in the immunization preservatives, have anything to do with autism. (Mercury is no longer used as the immunizations preservative, regardless of the fact that it not responsible for any untoward reactions.)

5. Will so many immunizations at one time overpower the child's immune system?

Parents often worry that children are required to have so many immunizations at one time. They are concerned that the child's immune system will be overwhelmed. Researchers have looked at this question very specifically. Each and every day children are exposed to numerous antigens (germs) in their environment. It is estimated that each day children confront and defeat more than 20,000 antigens. The total number of antigens they deal with in the total vaccine schedule is only approximately 150 antigens. They will not be overwhelmed by the number of antigens they receive in the standard immunization visit.

6. Could kids receive the immunizations on a different schedule, so they don't need so many shots at a time?

Spreading out the immunization schedule is often requested by parents. The immunizations are scheduled the way they are to maximize the protection for children. Certain diseases predominate during certain ages; so giving the immunization prior to that time is important. Certain immunizations do not work as well if given too early; so they too need to be given at a certain age. The alternative schedules suggested by some Internet websites help allay parental fears regarding "overwhelming the immune system," but are unnecessary, and extend the "unprotected" time for children. There is simply no need to use an alternative schedule.

7. Is it dangerous to have a large number of un-immunized patients in a medical practice?

Parents always have the right to refuse immunizations for their children. For many this is based on religious reasons; for others it is based on inflammatory and unfortunately incorrect Internet information. There has been shown to be no connection between immunizations, and autism. It is scary to have kids get all these shots, but the alternative return of major childhood illnesses, is significantly more freighting. There are some medical practices in the United States refusing to have un-immunized children be a part of their office panel, due to the increased risk to other children in the practice.

For now, the current schedule of immunizations, as well as the present immunization combinations, work very well. We continue to recommend following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 6 year as closely as possible.

Richard P. Votta, M.D., M.A., F.A.A.P., is affiliated with UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics Fort Dodge.

 
 

 

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