Vaccinations: Are Your Kids Up to Date?
Appropriate vaccination plays a key role in your child’s (and the population’s) health and well-being. Not only do immunizations protect against the spread of serious illnesses from polio to measles, they can also help families sidestep the seasonal flu. For those reasons, and others, vaccinations may be the most important aspect of well-child checkups.
Made from weakened or dead versions of the target bacteria or viruses, vaccinations prime the body to mount an attack against invaders by producing antibodies. That way when the person encounters the actual illness, his body is able to fight back more effectively. So, when the flu hits your kid’s preschool, for example, those who are vaccinated will be less likely to contract the virus than their unvaccinated classmates.
Each year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a new schedule (endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians) showing which vaccines are recommended and when to get them. Here are a few of the most recent standout changes:
- Influenza (a.k.a., flu): According to the AAP, kids should be vaccinated against the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Since the virus is unpredictable, vaccinating early offers the greatest protection. (However, flu season often lasts into April, so it’s not too late if you or your child haven’t gotten the flu shot yet.) Children 6 months through 8 years who have received the influenza vaccine at least twice in the past need only one dose of the seasonal vaccine. But those who are receiving the flu vaccine for the first time should receive a second dose at least 4 weeks after the first. Another change: The nasal spray is no longer available. Vaccination is only by injection.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): In October 2016, the CDC changed the recommendations regarding the HPV vaccine. According to the new guidelines, boys and girls ages 11 to 14 should receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart rather than the previously recommended three doses to protect against cancers caused by HPV. Those who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, still require three doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancer-causing infection.
- Meningitis: According to the CDC, all 11-12 year olds should be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, and receive a booster dose at 16 years. Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease that attacks the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
- Meningitis vaccines for older kids: A new meningitis vaccine called Bexsero, which protects against Meningitis type B, protects teens and young adults ages 16-23.
- Hepatitis B: The AAP recently emphasized the importance of vaccinating infants against Hepatitis B. While some parents think they can wait on vaccinating against Hepatitis B since it’s primarily a sexually transmitted disease, the liver infection can also be passed from mother to infant.
Parents often have concerns about whether they can vaccinate a child who has a cold or a stomach bug. In most cases, these children can be safely immunized. Those who have had a fever within 24 hours, or who have an immune disorder, should check with their physicians before the injection.
Beyond that, the key to successful vaccination is comforting and reassuring your child. Tears are natural. Make sure your child knows he is safe and supported. Most importantly, stick to the recommended schedule. A delay interferes with the process of building an effective immune response.
If you have questions about the safety and timing of the recommended vaccines and schedules, talk to your pediatrician.
To find a pediatrician or family medicine provider at Henry Ford or make an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).