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Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - Don't Take Children's Vaccinations For Granted - Stay Up-To-Date

Don’t take children’s vaccinations for granted ─ stay up-to-date
By Santisree Tanikella, M.D.

Today we have the ability to protect our families from disease and illness like never before. The rest of the world is in awe of our country’s ability to immunize our citizens against diseases that ravage other countries. In partnership with your pediatrician, it is important to keep up-to-date on which vaccinations and boosters are necessary throughout life. Many parents mistakenly assume that once a child reaches their teens (and older) they no longer need to be inoculated. In fact, we need routine boosters and vaccinations throughout life. Today, most of these vaccines are provided free for people with private medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Infants and children

Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 16 harmful diseases including measles, whooping cough (pertussis), chickenpox and hepatitis A and B. Parents who choose not to vaccinate increase the risk of preventable disease not only in that child, but in their family and the entire community. Annual flu shots are also strongly encouraged for everyone six months of age and older. It is particularly important that children with asthma or heart disease be vaccinated to help decrease their risk of serious complications from the flu. Parents can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/vaccines/parents for a complete listing of recommended vaccinations by age group.

The MMR Debate

A study, published in 1998, reported that the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccination contributed to the onset of autism. For decades to come, this report greatly alarmed the public. Subsequently, several reputable studies following thousands of children in various countries showed evidence that the original report was in error. Today’s mercury-free MMR is safer, provides longer-lasting protection, and has fewer side effects. If you still have concerns, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines can be administered separately.

Pre-teens and teens

As children reach adolescence, some vaccines need to be re-administered in order to maintain immunity. Older children also become at-risk for other diseases. From age 11 through 18, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: 

  • Tdap vaccine ─ a single booster vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) ─ helps protect against certain bacterial strains that cause meningococcal disease which can result in life-threatening meningitis and bloodstream infections.
  • HPV vaccine  ─ protects against certain strains of the human papillomavirus, including those most commonly responsible for genital warts in men and women and Pap smear abnormalities in women. It also protects against two strains of HPV that can cause cervical, vaginal, and penile cancers.  It is recommended for girls and boys age 9 and up.

CentraState Medical Center’s Pediatrics Department offers a warm, family-friendly environment supported by board-certified pediatric specialists, nurses and clinicians. The Emergency Department provides a separate treatment area reserved exclusively for children which is overseen by an on-site pediatrician 24/7. To find a board-certified pediatrician or learn more about CentraState’s services for children, call 866-CENTRA7 (236-8727) or visit centrastate.com.

Dr. Santisree Tanikella is a board-certified pediatrician on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. She may be reached at (732) 577-0047.