Friday, September 15, 2006

Recommended Vaccines

By Heather Pohlabel

No one looks forward to the visits to the doctor that entail shots. While babies and children fear the slight pain that the prick of the needle gives them and the slight discomfort that follows, parents have much more to think about when it comes time to immunize their children against childhood diseases. Some parents choose to not vaccinate, and others put it off because they fear side effects or think that the vaccinations cause diseases.

Childhood vaccinations have not been proven to cause any disease, despite rampant rumors in the late 1990s that they were linked to autism. Rumors also circulate that vaccines are linked to learning and behavior disorders. Again, this has not been proven. What vaccines have proven over and over again is that what they really do is protect children from deadly diseases such as mumps, measles, polio, and meningitis. There are also more recent vaccines that help prevent common childhood diseases such as chickenpox and the flu.

Vaccines not only protect children from disease, they help guard against outbreak. One unimmunized child could contract a disease and spread it rapidly amongst his other little unimmunized friends. Unvaccinated children are more likely to get measles, chickenpox, and the flu. Not immunizing because you think your child is safe if all other children are immunized is not a safe bet. Your child is still twenty five percent more likely to contract disease.

Advantages of immunizing
Diseases exist. The only way to ensure your child the best protection is to have him immunized against them. Polio, while very uncommon, still exists; measles still exist. Very few children even have to suffer the itchy rash and small scars of chickenpox now because there is a vaccine for it!

Children can build up their immunity to a disease without actually having to suffer through it. Take chickenpox, for example. It was always a fact that you could never get chickenpox twice, and rarely anyone ever did. The body, once it had suffered the fever, the intolerable rash, and had a few scars left to prove it, built up a defense against this disease, ensuring that the child would not suffer the disease again. Vaccines do the same thing without the discomfort of the disease. They build up a defense against disease, and when exposed to the disease, the body will fight it easily, minus the side effects.

Daycares and schools often require children to be immunized and for you to prove it before allowing them to enroll in their programs. Your child could not be allowed to enroll in certain schools or daycares if he is not immunized. Private child care professionals also may turn your child away.

Recommended Immunizations
Your child will be vaccinated in the hospital at birth against Hepatitis B and will need follow up shots at 2 months and about one year. Hepatitis B is the only shot given at birth, but there is a list of immunizations that you will need to get during your child's first two years of life:

Hepatitis B:
  • given in the hospital at birth
  • 2 months
  • 12 months

DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus, Acellular Pertussis):

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 months
  • 5 years (usually before entering Kindergarten)

Hib:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 1 year

Polio (usually given orally):

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 1 year
  • 5 years (prior to entering Kindergarten)

MMR:

  • 1 year
  • 5 years (prior to entering Kindergarten)

Chicken Pox:

  • 1 year
  • 5 years

Hepatits A:

  • 1-2 years
  • 6 months after first dose

PPV:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 1 year

There are several other vaccines that your doctor may or may not recommend - the Influenza and Rotavirus vaccines are often optional, and you can research these further and speak with your doctor to make the best decision for your child. The influenza will be administered typically at 6 months of age, with a follow up one month after the first dose and then annually after that. Rotavirus vaccine is given orally at 2, 4, and 6 months.

Doctors and health clinics will provide you with a card to keep track of your immunizations. You will need to hold on to this for your child, as schools and daycare providers will often request a copy or ask for the last date of booster shots. They will need this information even entering high school, so be sure to hold on to your shot records for your children. Your doctor's office will keep a copy in your child's records in case you lose your card, but be sure to replace it immediately so that you always have access to that information.

Some doctors participate in an online vaccination registry, and your child's information may be there for other doctors to access if needed. Be sure to ask your pediatrician if he participates in this online registry.

Vaccinating against childhood diseases is a wise decision, but one that commonly weighs heavily on parents' minds. There are relatively few, if any, occurrences of disease due to the vaccination. The side effects are relatively minimal. Vaccines are the best way to ensure your child is protected against common childhood diseases like measles and influenza. If you are having doubts about immunizing your child, talk to a health care professional. Ignore playground rumors and old wives tales. Make an informed decision if you decide against immunizing your child, but remember, immunization is the best way to prevent childhood diseases.

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