Immunizations Offer Protection Against Childhood Diseases
Parents protect their children in myriad ways. They buckle them into car seats, strap on helmets before letting them ride a bike, and make sure all their immunizations are current.
“Immunizations are important to prevent very serious diseases,” says Michelle Church, M.D., pediatrician at NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Fairfield, and evidence proves they unequivocally help save lives.
“Prior to the advent of immunizations, a good percentage of children—maybe as much as 30 percent—did not make it to double digit ages,” Dr. Church adds, because without these vaccines they were not protected from such childhood diseases as measles, mumps, meningitis, chicken pox, scarlet fever or whooping cough. “Research shows that, as the rate of immunizations against these diseases increases, the incidence of disease decreases.”
Clearly, no parent would want their child to suffer through the risks that come with exposure to chicken pox or measles, or the risk of death that comes with exposure to HIB meningitis, and yet pediatricians are noting a recent concern among some parents who believe that immunizations themselves may cause such side effects as autism.
“I always caution my parents as to the sources of information they receive. Anybody can put anything on the Internet. There are no studies that prove vaccines (specifically the MMR vaccine) cause autism. For example, we’re able to more reliably pick up on signs of autism around the age that MMR is given. Additionally, kids are now in day care and preschools at an earlier age and will be compared to other children more frequently. In the past, when they weren’t going off to kindergarten until age 5, moms would say, ‘oh, that’s just how little Johnnie is.’
“As with anything in life, you weigh risks and benefits and here the benefits far outweigh the risks,” Dr. Church explains. “Almost nothing in life is risk-free. Even getting in the car to go for a ride, you take precautions and face risks. It’s important to make an informed decision based on facts and not emotions.”
As a pediatrician, Dr. Church adds, “I discuss concerns about immunizations with my parents, and provide appropriate recommendations and counseling. At our well child visits, for example, we discuss the most common reactions to vaccines, such as fever, redness and soreness at the vaccine site. Many pediatricians, like myself, are agreeable to alternative schedules of vaccinations—such as only giving one or two vaccines at a time, or starting later—if the parents are willing to go this route,” rather than increasing their risk of becoming sick by avoiding the vaccines altogether. ”
The recommended immunization schedule for children (below), is suggested by the Centers for Disease Control, and is one that Dr. Church follows. Some immunizations are combined, so the child may receive multiple protections with just one injection:
Birth: Hep B (hepatitis B)
2 months and 4 months: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis—whooping cough), IPV (polio), Hep B, HIB (haempohilus influenzae B), Prevnar (pneumococcal infections), Rotateq (rotavirus)
6 months: DTaP, IPV, Hep B, Prevnar, Rotateq
12 months: MMR (measles / mumps/ rubella) / Varicella (chickenpox), Hep A (hepatitis A), HIB
15 months: DTaP, Prevnar
18 months: Hep A
4 years: DTaP, IPV, MMR / Varicella
11-12 years: Tdap (this includes the pre-adolescent booster for whooping cough), MCV4 (meningococcal infection), HPV (human papillomavirus vaccine)
Whooping Cough Cases on the Rise
According to the Solano County Department of Public Health, there were 7,297 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of pertussis (whooping cough), through Nov. 30, 2010, as reported to the California Department of Public Health. That is an average of 18.7 cases per 100,000.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes coughing and gagging with little or no fever. Those with the infection may experience coughing episodes that end in vomiting or cause a “whoop” sound when the person tries to breath.
Whooping cough is spread when those with the disease cough or sneeze while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not know they have the disease.
Early symptoms are like the common cold:
- Runny nose
- Low or no fever
- Mild cough
Infants younger than 6 months old often do not have a typical cough. In early stages infants may:
- Gasp or gag
- Get very tired
- Stop breathing
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. There are vaccines for children, pre-teens, teens and adults. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and the pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.