Vaccinations — timing is everything

It’s hard to believe summer is already coming to an end and children will soon be going back to school. When helping get your child ready for school, don’t forget to make sure they are up to date with vaccinations. This is especially important for seventh- and 12th-graders this year, as it is now required to have meningococcal vaccine by the first day of school.

Why are vaccines important?

Maintain good health — Vaccinations have the opportunity to prevent the cost and suffering associated with infectious disease and illness. Vaccinations are proven to be extremely effective and safe, and when you follow through with the proper immunizations from infancy through adulthood, you provide yourself with a lifetime of protection from potentially fatal diseases and illnesses.

Protects your child from disease — Short of general sanitation and nutrition, no medical intervention has helped to save lives and prevent disease more than immunizations. It is one of the easiest and effective means of protecting your child from serious illnesses and consequences including seizures, brain disease or even death.

Prevent outbreaks — Certain diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough still present a threat. The bacteria and viruses that cause disease and serious illness exist and can easily be passed onto those who have not been vaccinated. Outbreaks occur when the vaccination rates decline and children and adults do not receive proper vaccinations.

What vaccines do children need?

There will be different vaccinations necessary from infancy through 18 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends a vaccination schedule for infants and children from birth through seven years of age is provided, to ensure the health and protection through the beginning of life when they are the most susceptible to being exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. As for preteens and teens typically ranging from seven to eighteen years of age, ensure they are on the right track and up-to-date with the vaccinations they need by checking in with their health care provider as well as following the vaccination schedule.

Why are there combination vaccines?

Some parents are concerned about vaccines that fight against multiple diseases in one vaccine. For example, the MMR vaccine fights against measles, mumps and rubella and, the DTaP vaccine battles diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. However do not to worry; these vaccines have been extensively studied and are safe.

Remember, each vaccine has antigens in them, which cause the immune system to work and create defenses that protect the body. However, the antigens in vaccines aren’t the only ones your child will come across. Children are exposed to antigens during normal, everyday activities, such as playing outside, eating food or when sick with an infection. Healthy children’s immune systems can handle multiple exposures.

What about autism?

The increasing rate of children diagnosed on the Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has some parents putting the blame on vaccines. Yet, studies fail to support any claim of the sort.

There are several theories, but one rumor circulates around thimerosal. It’s a mercury-based preservative once used in several vaccines, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is still used in some flu vaccines. The AAP, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine agree that scientific research does not support a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.

All physicians are mandated to report any adverse effects of vaccines to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), so that it can be studied further. Action is taken immediately if any concerns are flagged. For example, a rotavirus vaccine found to be associated with an intestinal condition called intussusception was taken off the market, immediately.

Get vaccinated today

Ensure your child’s continued health and safety against illness and disease by making sure they are properly vaccinated going into the new school year.

Mahesh Shrestha, M.D., is affiliated with UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics