Why Children Need Vaccinations

Why Children Need Vaccinations

Frighteningly, 2014 has been quite a year for outbreaks of preventable diseases. In the U.S. we’ve seen record numbers of measles cases—593 as of August 1, 2014. Yes—measles. The same disease that we thought we had eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. The current outbreak is mainly being seen in California where, according to The L.A. Times, parents are opting out of vaccinating their children at twice the rate they did seven years ago. State health officials say that the widespread emergence of measles and whooping cough means people are vulnerable to other dangerous diseases, too.

Complications of measles include pneumonia, liver damage, encephalitis, death and even can cause pregnant women to have miscarriages or premature birth. We’ve also seen similar outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough), with almost 10,000 cases in the first six months—an increase of 24 percent compared to last year. As an ER doctor, I’ve seen the complications of both—these illnesses are serious and not worth any gamble.

So, what to do? Children need vaccines at various ages, and the immunity of some wears off. Some vigilance can prevent your child from bringing home a preventable illness.

Children from newborn to 6 years old
Children in this age group get some of their protection from the vaccines they get, but also much of it from “herd immunity.” This means that although they’re too young to get some vaccinations, we can still protect them by being sure that the older people around them are vaccinated so they don’t infect the baby. Speak with your pediatrician to make sure that they’re up-to-date with the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don’t forget the flu vaccine in the fall, too—it’s recommended for all children over the age of 6 months.

Children from 7 years to 18 years
Most children in this age group will need a couple of vaccines—three of which are usually recommended around 11 to 12 years. These include a Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis (Tdap), 3 doses of the HPV vaccine and the Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine. Again, the flu shot is also recommended annually in this group.

It’s also a great (notice I didn’t say fun, but it’s important) time to make sure that your own vaccinations are up-to-date. Depending on your age and last vaccine date (assuming you received all of your vaccines on schedule as a child/teen), you should check on your status for the Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis vaccine (this is crucial if you have a newborn/baby at home) as well as the flu. Also, if you’re one of the lucky few that never had chicken pox, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about a vaccination for it. Others to consider (based on your health, work function and travel) could be Pneumococcal (prevents strains of pneumonia), Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and the Meningococcal vaccine (against bacterial meningitis).

I recommend that parents use the news of the current outbreak as a reminder to review the vaccine status of everyone in your household.

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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