September 9, 2015

Thanks to modern medicine, child vaccinations are responsible for preventing 322 million illnesses over the last 20 years. Because 78 million kids have been vaccinated over the past two decades, 732,000 deaths have been prevented. Was your child one of that nearly 80 million?

Also referred to as a vaccination, an immunization is a way of creating immunity to specific diseases by using small amounts of a killed or weakened microorganism that causes the particular disease.  Vaccines stimulate our immune system to react as if there was a real infection. By fending off the infection, the immune system remembers the organism so that it can fight it off quickly if it should enter the body later.

The diseases that can arise in unvaccinated children (and adults) can be devastating and the best way to stop them is through prevention.  The recommended childhood vaccines prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP or Tdap), polio (IPV), pneumococcal disease (Prevnar), hemophilus influenza type b (Hib), rotavirus disease (Rotateq), hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chickenpox (varicella), measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), meningococcal disease (Menactra) and human papilloma virus disease (HPV).  Influenza vaccine is also recommended every fall for people 6 months and older.

A common misperception of many diseases that vaccinations help prevent (like measles, chicken pox and polio) is that they have been eradicated. But, unfortunately, they haven’t been.  Just 20 years ago in 1995, Mankato had nine cases of meningococcal disease outbreak which caused one death. The result was 30,000 additional immunizations of unvaccinated individuals. In 2012, there were 12 known cases of invasive diseases and, just this year, there have been 173 cases of measles in 21 states.

For years, scientists and doctors have rigorously developed and tested vaccinations as they are developed and determined them to be safe. Though there remains some hesitancy toward vaccinations and resistance, there lacks any evidence that immunizations cause autism or developmental problems. In fact, vaccinations are one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and the people around you so unnecessary sickness doesn’t occur.  It’s important to know the various types of vaccines:

  • Attenuated: weakened, live viruses are used in some vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella vaccine; rotavirus vaccine is a live, oral vaccine for infants.
  • Killed: inactivated viruses or bacteria are used in some vaccines, like IPV
  • Toxoid vaccines: contain an inactivated toxin produced by bacteria. The diphtheria and tetanus vaccines are toxoid vaccines
  • Conjugate vaccines: contain parts of killed bacteria which are combined with proteins to make the person’s immune response better

When getting your child scheduled for his or her immunizations, remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get a combination of vaccines whenever possible. By doing so, the combination helps reduce the number of shots a child receives.   Examples are Pentacel, Kinrix and Proquad.

Refer to the following chart for a recommended schedule for your child’s immunizations.   As parents, vaccinating our children at birth and for the rest of their lives is the best way to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases.

  • Birth: Hepatitis B
  • 2 months: Pentacel (DTaP, IPV, Hib), Prevnar, Rotateq, Hepatitis B
  • 4 months: Pentacel (DTaP, IPV, Hib), Prevnar, Rotateq
  • 6 months: Pentacel (DTaP, IPV, Hib), Prevnar, Rotateq, Hepatitis B
  • 12 months: Hepatitis A, Prevnar, Varicella
  • 15 months: Pentacel (DTaP, IPV, Hib), MMR
  • 18 months: Hepatitis A
  • 4-6 years: Kinrix (DTaP and IPV, Proquad (MMR, Varicella)
  • Seventh grade: Tdap, Menactra, HPV series
  • 16 years: Menactra