Written by Ronald J. Scaglia Friday, 16 September 2011 00:00
The sun goes down just a little bit earlier each night. The outside temperature doesn’t go quite as high as it did a few weeks ago. Occasionally, there is even a tiny chill in the breeze. These are all signs that summer days are dwindling to a precious few. And for parents, it also signals that it is time to get their children prepared to go back to school.
Moms and dads have headed to the stores to purchase notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators and, of course, the latest “I’ve got to have those or I’ll look totally lame” clothes. However, pediatricians are also urging parents to make sure the children have something that is extremely important, all of their required immunizations.
“Vaccines have been one of the greater public health advances in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Lorry Rubin, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. “One of the best things parents can do to protect their children is to get them vaccinated and on time.”
Below are some recommendations from the CDC regarding childhood immunizations. As with all medical topics, you should consult your physician with questions or concerns you may have. While there is a lot of excellent information available online, there is also misinformation so it is indeed best to speak with your doctor to get your concerns answered.
The immunization process should actually begin before a newborn leaves the hospital with a dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine, which will help prevent this serious liver disease. This is the first of three doses that will be given with the second being administered a month or 2 later and the third dose given when the child is between 6 and 18 months old.
At 2 months of age, infants should receive their first DTaP vaccination, which provides immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough. This is of particular importance on Long Island as there has been a recent outbreak of whooping cough in Suffolk County. This immunization requires a second dose at four months, a third dose at six months, a fourth dose between fifteen and eighteen months and a fifth dose at four to six years. As an adolescent, children should then receive an adult version of this immunization, Tdap, at 11 to 12 years of age.
Also given at 2 months is the first immunization against rotaviruses, which Dr. Rubin says are the most common cause of severe diarrhea in young children. This immunization requires a second dose at four months and with one vaccine a third dose at 6 months, a timing that coincides with that of the DTaP immunizations.
On that same dosing schedule of 2, 4 and 6 months is the vaccine against pneumococcus, which is a type of bacteria that can lead to serious infections. This vaccine has reduced the occurrences of meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.
No longer given orally or as a live vaccine, the polio vaccine is also first given at 2 months with a second dose given at 4, a third dose administered at 6-18 months and a fourth dose given at 4-6 years. Also, first given at 2 months of age, the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine prevents against meningitis, pneumonia, epiglottitis and other serious infections. Additional doses of this vaccine are given at four and six months with a fourth dose administered between 12-15 months of age.
Moving on to 1 year of age, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given between 12 and 15 months with a second shot administered at 4 to 6 years of age. This shot has also raised concerns, as some are fearful that this vaccination may cause autism. Again, Dr. Rubin says that parents should not be alarmed.
“MMR has been proven not to cause autism,” said Dr. Rubin. “Sufficient studies have been done that concluded it doesn’t cause autism.”
He also said that children should receive the flu vaccination to prevent them from transmitting to others they will have contact with. This is especially important if children will have contact with elderly people, such as their grandparents.
“The elderly have a high mortality from the flu,” said Dr. Rubin. “A parent’s primary goal is to protect their children, but you’re protecting the community as well.”