Written by Kathleen F. Miller.
Parents have plenty of items on their to-do lists with a new school year approaching. Making sure their children’s vaccinations are up to date should be near the top of those lists, says Dr. Iyabode Akinsanya-Beysolow, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and a medical officer for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Vaccinating your children according to CDC’s recommended schedule is one of the best ways you can protect them from 14 harmful and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday,” Dr. Akinsanya-Beysolow said. “Following the recommended schedule protects as many children as possible, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.”
Information about immunization requirements for school entry can be found here.
You can also find information about state immunization requirements locally here.
Your physician is the best resource for making sure your child is up to date on all his or her vaccinations, says Mary Anne Jackson, MD, Chief of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Section at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics, Kansas City, Mo., and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
“The second dose of varicella vaccine is one of the most commonly missed vaccines, and parents and pediatricians may need to look carefully at records to identify that the second vaccine needs to be given, Dr. Jackson said. “The recommendation for a second dose of varicella vaccine at age four to six years came in 2005 and then in 2006, a catch-up recommendation for older children. These are generally the children who are missing the vaccine, and it turns out teens are at increased risk from serious varicella infection.”
Parents should consider getting their tweens and teens the HPV vaccine as well.
“The vaccine is safe and effective,” Dr. Jackson said. “It is a childhood vaccine that is actually a cancer preventative vaccine and we are learning that its impact goes beyond cervical cancer, to other cancers.
“One side effect that is common in those receiving HPV vaccine is syncope (fainting),” Dr. Jackson added. “Syncope is uncommon in young children but quite common in teens and adults, usually triggered by some type of noxious intervention (blood draws, for example). All practitioners should inquire about prior fainting in teens, making sure that their practice abides by the observation period after giving the vaccine."
Many parents are reluctant to let their child have multiple vaccines in one visit, and Dr. Steven Hall, MD, of Issaquah, Wash., says you can request that shots are spread out over several visits.
"Immunizations are one of the few topics in medicine where the more information you get, the more confusing and difficult are the decisions,” Dr. Hall said. “The currently recommended immunization schedule is clearly influenced by factors such as immunizing children when they are available (such as during well baby visits) and getting the most immunizations into the most children, rather than by factors such as the natural history of the illness being immunized for or what is best for the child's immune system.
“I think it is perfectly safe for informed, rational, intelligent parents to modify their child's immunization schedule to be gentler on their child," Dr. Hall added.