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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Is Your Child Protected? Don’t Risk a Preventable Nightmare

The CDC estimates that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.

Back-to-school season is fast approaching. Parents have begun gathering school supplies and shopping for new clothes. Now is also the perfect time to make sure your child is up-to-date on all vaccines.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for diseases and can also spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community—including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and those with weakened immune systems because of cancer or other health conditions.

Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a child, family, or community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of American children and adults get sick each year from diseases that vaccines can prevent. This shouldn’t be happening in 2017. It’s crucial parents continue to protect children with vaccines because outbreaks of these terrible diseases can and do still occur in this country.

Why Vaccinate?

Polio, chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough, measles—thankfully, we rarely hear about these diseases anymore thanks to available vaccines. When reported cases do occur it’s usually a case of parents choosing not to vaccinate their child. In a school or daycare environment, a case of whooping cough, for example, can spread like wildfire and could even lead to a death sentence for a child too young for vaccinations. This scenario can easily be prevented, but only if parents across the country are committed to keeping children up-to-date on all vaccinations.

The National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) wants all parents to know:

  • Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure they are very safe.
  • Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. They not only protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • The U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. The country’s long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible.

Focus on Four

For parents of school-age children, four vaccinations are crucial: TDaP, influenza, meningococcal, and HPV.

TDaP

Infants and small children get shots called DTaP to protect them from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). But as kids get older, the protection from the DTaP shots begins to wear off—putting your preteen or teen at risk for serious illness. The tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is a booster shot that helps protect your preteen or teen from the same diseases that DTaP shots protect small children from.

All preteens should get one Tdap shot when they are 11 or 12 years old. If your teen is 13 years old up through 18 and has not yet received the shot, talk to their doctor about getting it right away.

The Tdap shot has been studied very carefully and is safe. It is recommended by the CDC, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Influenza

A yearly vaccination for influenza (flu) is crucial for a number of reasons, including:

  • A flu shot can keep your child from getting sick with flu.
  • Influenza can be more serious than the common cold and can lead to serious complications, including hospitalization or death. The CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years of age have ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 in the U.S.
  • Since 2004-2005, flu-related deaths in children reported to the CDC during regular flu seasons have ranged from a low of 37 deaths (2011-2012) to 171 deaths (2012-2013).
  • Children, especially school-aged children, are more likely to catch the flu. Millions of children get sick with flu every season. A typical flu illness can mean missing a week or more of school. Once infected, children can spread the flu to parents and siblings, other family members, and friends.
  • Vaccinating your child protects people around them (like grandparents, babies, or anyone with long-term health problems) who are more vulnerable to flu.
  • Children with certain long-term health conditions (like asthma or diabetes) and all children younger than 5 years of age are at high risk of serious illness when they get the flu.
  • Flu vaccine is not perfect. Some vaccinated people may still get sick, but if they do, flu vaccine may make their illness milder.

The CDC says preteens and teens should get a yearly flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season—even in January or later. Flu vaccine is available in many places, including doctor’s offices or clinics, and sometimes local health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, grocery stores, and schools.

Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of people have safely gotten flu vaccines for more than 50 years. Your child may experience mild side effects from getting vaccinated, but these are much easier to deal with than the flu!

Meningococcal

Meningococcal vaccines help protect against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. These infections don’t happen very often, but can be very dangerous when they do. Meningococcal disease refers to any illness that is caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. The two most severe and common illnesses caused by these bacteria include infections of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). Approximately 15 out of 100 people with meningococcal disease will die from it—even if they receive treatment.

Meningococcal disease can spread from person to person. The bacteria that cause this infection can spread when people have contact with saliva, like through kissing or coughing, especially if they are living together. Teens and young adults are at increased risk for meningococcal disease which can become very serious, very quickly. The vaccine is the best way to ensure protection.

Those 11 and 12 years of age should be vaccinated with a single dose of a quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Older teens need a second shot at 16 so they stay protected when their risk is the highest. Teens who got meningococcal vaccine for the first time when they were 13, 14, or 15 should still get the booster shot at 16. If your older teen has not had the meningococcal shot at all, talk to their doctor about getting it as soon as possible.

Teens and young adults (16-23 years of age) may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine (two or three doses depending on brand), preferably at 16 through 18 years of age.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

This vaccine is for protection from most of the cancers caused by HPV infection. HPV is a very common virus that spreads between people when they have sexual contact with another person. Approximately 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause anal cancer, throat cancer, and genital warts in both men and women.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. The vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older adolescents. If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it for them as soon as possible.

This vaccination is a series of shots given over several months. The best way to remember to get your child all the shots they need is to make an appointment for the remaining shots before you leave the doctor’s office or clinic.

Save a Life, Vaccinate a Child

Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect a child’s health. In doing so, you will be protecting their classmates, friends, family members, and those in the community who are at the greatest risk.

Whether children are home-schooled or attend a public, private, charter, or religious school, they are required to be up-to-date based on their age for certain vaccinations recommended by the CDC. For more information on the immunizations required by the state of North Carolina, click here.

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots!

For more information on immunizations for the entire family, contact one of Coastal Carolina Health Care’s family practices: CCHC New Bern Family Practice, at (252) 633-1678, or CCHC Twin Rivers Family Practice, at (252) 636-2664.

(Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; North Carolina Health and Human Services; National Public Health Information Coalition; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; World Health Organization; American Association for Respiratory Care; and Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.)