Health News
Health News
August 1, 2018
Back to School: Get an A+ on Immunizations

As August arrives, parents and children across North Texas begin to focus on the new school year ahead.  That means the final few weeks of summer vacation fun, as well as shopping for school supplies and new clothes.  It should also mean a check-in with your child’s doctor to ensure all immunizations are up-to-date. 

Texas law requires that school children who attend public, charter or private schools be current on a number of vaccines.  In addition to these mandatory immunizations, there are a few more that are strongly recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the health care providers of Privia Medical Group North Texas. 

“Immunizations are essential to our health because they build our body’s immunity to serious diseases,” says Dr. Jeffrey Tessier, an infectious disease specialist.  “When parents ensure that their children receive all recommended immunizations, they are giving them a wonderful gift of protection from many dangerous infections.” 

Debunking Vaccine Myths

Over the last twenty years, there has been a rash of misinformation about vaccines.  The genesis of these dangerous falsehoods is a report – one that has been completely discredited by the medical and scientific community – that vaccines can increase the likelihood of autism in children.  This is simply not true. 

“Anyone who says vaccines are unsafe is peddling junk science – period,” says Dr. Mark Bernhard, a primary care physician.  “Vaccines save lives and discouraging immunizations puts lives at risk.  Anyone who has not received required immunizations is at a much-higher risk of contracting a serious, preventable and potentially deadly disease, such as whooping cough or measles.”   

While the overall number of parents opting out of vaccines for their children is small, it has increased over the last several years, no doubt fueled by internet rumors and debunked theories. And as the number of vaccine opt-outs has crept up, so has the incidence of measles and pertussis outbreaks.  For example, in the first six months of 2018, there have been 93 confirmed measles cases in the U.S., including in Texas.  In 2014, there were 667 measles cases, the highest number since 2000, the year in which the disease was declared to have been eradicated in this country. 

“We can’t afford to backslide on all the progress that has been made in combatting these completely preventable and serious diseases,” says Dr. Carolyn Evans, a pediatrician.  “Vaccines have done more to prevent death and disability in children than anything else we do in the field of medicine. If you have questions about a vaccine, please do speak with your child’s doctor about any concerns you have – we are here to answer your questions so that you can keep your child healthy.” 

Immunization Schedule

Children begin receiving immunizations shortly after birth and continue to do so throughout childhood.  However, immunizations are not just for babies and young children.  People of all ages need periodic immunizations to protect against various diseases.  Here is a look at the most commonly-administered immunizations, the diseases they help prevent and standard guidelines on who should get them and when. 

Please note that these are standard guidelines developed and issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  If you or your child have an underlying health condition, your physician may recommend forgoing a vaccine or receiving additional vaccines.  It is very important to consult with your physician on immunizations

Printable, color-coded charts showing recommended vaccinations by age can be found on the CDC’s website:

The information in these charts and below has been updated for 2018.

Required Immunizations for Children


Hepatitis B (HepB)

When Children
Need It

Birth AND

1-2 months AND

6-18 months

Why It’s Important

Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver.  It is spread through the blood and other bodily fluids.   

 

Rotavirus (RV, RV1, RV5)

When Children
Need It

2 months AND

4 months

6 months (depending on type of vaccine)

Why It’s Important

Rotavirus causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the digestive system.  It can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever and pain. 

 

Diphtheria, tetanus & acellular pertussis (DTaP)

When Children
Need It

2 months AND

4 months AND

6 months AND

15-18 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are serious diseases caused by bacteria.  Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the throat and can lead to cardiovascular and breathing problems, paralysis and death.  

Tetanus, also called “lockjaw,” causes tightening of muscles throughout the body.  In the event the jaw locks, a person may be unable to swallow. 

Pertussis is commonly referred to as whooping cough.  This disease causes intense coughing fits for infants and young children, leaving them unable to eat or drink. 

“Whooping cough is exhibit A in demonstrating why vaccines are so important.  This is a disease that was essentially eradicated a few years ago, but now we are seeing it make a comeback as more people have opted out of vaccines.  Pertussis is not simply a bad cough.  It is a terrible – and sometimes deadly – illness that children are defenseless against if not vaccinated.”  -- Dr. Lynne Tilkin, Primary Care

 

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

When Children
Need It

2 months AND

4 months AND 

6 months AND

12-15 months

Why It’s Important

Hib disease is a bacterial disease that can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and death.  Before the Hib vaccine, Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis infections in children under the age of 5. 

 

Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)

When Children
Need It

2 months AND

4 months AND

6 months AND

12-15 months

Why It’s Important

Pneumococcal disease can cause ear infections, bloodstream infections, meningitis and pneumonia.  The very young and older people are especially vulnerable to pneumonia

 

Inactivated poliovirus (IPV)

When Children
Need It

2 months AND

4 months AND 

6-18 months AND 

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

“As recently as 65 years ago, parents lived in fear that their children would contract polio – a devastating disease that can cause paralysis and even death.  But when Dr. Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955, the world changed – and by 1979, polio was considered eradicated in the United States.  There are still parts of the world in which polio cases continue to be reported, so until the disease is completely eradicated, immunizations remain absolutely necessary.” -- Dr. Jason Ledbetter, Internal Medicine

 

Influenza (IIV)

When Children
Need It

6 months AND

Every year thereafter

Why It’s Important

The flu causes serious symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, extreme fatigue and headache.  Young children and older adults are especially susceptible to complications, such as pneumonia and even death.

The flu vaccine is updated each year to be as effective as possible against the flu viruses expected to be most common.  Annual flu vaccines are generally available beginning in September.

 

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

When Children
Need It

12-15 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Measles causes runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and a rash that spreads all over the body.  Mumps causes flu-like symptoms and swollen salivary glands, while Rubella produces symptoms similar to measles. 

A highly-contagious respiratory virus, measles used to be quite common; in fact, virtually all children used to contract the disease by the age of 15.  Measles vaccinations began in the mid-1950’s and served to largely eliminate the disease as a common occurrence.  As with pertussis, however, there have been reports of measles occurrences in non-immunized children.  In 2014, 150 people contracted measles in an outbreak that began in an amusement park. 

A mumps outbreak in Iowa in 2006 demonstrated that when individuals are not vaccinated, they can contract the illness and also spread it into the vaccinated population. 

“The MMR vaccine is 95 percent effective – it provides very good protection, but if exposed to measles or mumps, a vaccinated person remains slightly vulnerable to contracting it.  This simply underscores that for vaccinations to truly be effective, everyone must be vaccinated.” -- Dr. Mark Bernhard

 

Varicella a.k.a. chickenpox (VAR)

When Children
Need It

12-15 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Chickenpox is highly contagious. It causes a severe rash, fever and fatigue.  The virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles in adults.

First approved in the United States in 1995, the chickenpox vaccine is relatively new.  Chickenpox used to be very common, usually affecting children ages 10 and younger.  Before the vaccine, up to four million people contracted the illness each year in the United States. 

 

Hepatitis A (HepA)

When Children
Need It

12-18 months (two doses)

Why It’s Important

Hepatitis A attacks the liver.  It generally spreads through accidental ingestion of microscopic amounts of fecal matter.

 

Meningococcal (MenACWY)

When Children
Need It

11-12 years AND

16 years

Why It’s Important

There are several different forms of meningococcal disease, some of which can be prevented through vaccinations.  In general, this illness attacks the central nervous system by infecting membranes on the brain and spinal cord.   

Meningitis can be transmitted between teenagers and college students through sharing drinks, kissing and living in close quarters, such as a dorm. Meningitis is a highly-contagious, dangerous illness that can cause death.  Vaccinations are the best way to prevent infection. 

 

Tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis (Tdap)

When Children
Need It

11-12 years

Why It’s Important

Tdap provides continued protection from the same diseases as the DTaP. 

 

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

When Children
Need It

11-12 years (girls and boys)

Why It’s Important

HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer and can also lead to cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum, throat, head and neck.  HPV is a common virus transmitted through sexual contact.  The CDC reports that at least half of the sexually active population has HPV, and many who have it will never realize it. 

In most cases, HPV is harmless, but sometimes it can alter cells and cause cancer.  Parents should ask their child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine, as it can protect the child from HPV later in life.  The HPV vaccine dramatically reduces a girl’s odds of ever developing cervical cancer and protects boys, as well. 

Optional for Young Adults

Meningococcal B (MenB)

Who Needs It & When

Young adults 16-18 years old who wish to receive the vaccine, after consultation with a physician

Why It’s Important

The MenB vaccine provides additional protection against a form of meningitis.


Adult Immunizations

While we receive the majority of our immunizations during childhood, there are some vaccines adults need to get, as well.  The following recommended immunization schedule is for most adults. 

Additional immunizations and/or a modified immunization schedule may be recommended by your physician based upon medical history and overall health.  For adults who did not receive or are unsure if they received certain vaccines in their youth, such as meningitis, HPV, chickenpox and MMR, they should discuss this with their provider, as it may be recommended to receive those vaccinations as an adult.

Influenza

Who Needs It & When

Everyone, once a year

Why It’s Important

“Getting an annual flu vaccine is one of the best things you can do for your health.  The vaccine greatly reduces your risk of getting the flu, which at minimum is a serious illness that will put you in bed for several days.  At worst, it can land you in the hospital, cause pneumonia or even lead to death.”  --Dr. Ramu Rangineni, Hospitalist

 

Tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis (Tdap) 

Who Needs It & When

Any adult who did not receive a Tdap as a child (11-12 years) should receive one dose

Women who are pregnant should receive a Tdap between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy for the protection of the mother and baby

Family members and others who will be spending time around a newborn should receive a Tdap at least two weeks before the child is born for the child’s protection

Why It’s Important

Pertussis continues to be a significant health risk, with more than 48,000 cases of the disease in 2012.  As babies are more vulnerable to the disease, a Tdap during pregnancy helps provide protection. 

Tetanus/diphtheria (Td)

Who Needs It & When

Once one has received a Tdap, regardless of age, everyone needs to get a Td booster every 10 years

Why It’s Important

Unlike other infections, tetanus does not spread from person to person.  It is a type of bacteria that live in soil, dust and manure and can enter the body through a superficial wound, even one as minor as a cut or scrape.  Getting a tetanus booster every 10 years is critical to protecting against this risk. 

 

Zoster (Shingles)

Who Needs It & When

Adults at age 50

Why It’s Important

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.  If you have had the chickenpox – or the chickenpox vaccine – you are at risk for shingles. 

 

Pneumococcal (PCV13/PPSV23)

Who Needs It & When

Adults at age 65 AND

Second dose 1 year later

Why It’s Important

Senior citizens are much more susceptible to developing pneumonia, a severe respiratory illness that claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans each year. 

“By following recommended immunization schedules for your children – and for yourself – you will help protect your family against an array of preventable diseases,” says Dr. Paresh Patel, a primary care physician.  “Remember, if you are unsure about a vaccine or have questions, please visit with your health care provider – we can answer your questions and make sure you have all the information you need about immunizations.” 

This article contains information sourced from:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Dallas Morning News

The Texas Tribune