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By Dan May, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician
The Chester County Hospital
Published: April 30, 2007
More than 20 million lives have been saved over the last two decades through vaccination. Smallpox once killed five million people per year, and polio was devastating. The following descriptions are of some of the newer vaccines:
Rotavirus causes vomiting and diarrhea. It leads to thousands of hospitalizations each year. There is now a safe and effective vaccine for Rotavirus which is given orally at two, four, and six months of age. It is a no-brainer.
Pertussus, widely known as Whooping Cough, has increased dramatically over the last decade. Immunity from the Pertussus vaccines wears off after five to eight years. The adolescents and adults with Pertussus can pass it on to the more at-risk newborns and infants. The Tetanus-Pertussus booster is given at age 11 through age 65. Another no-brainer.
HPV is a skin virus to which more than 80 percent of women are eventually exposed. Gardasil is a vaccine given to 11- to 26-year-old females to prevent HPV virus infection and nearly eliminate the risk of cervical cancer. Vaccination consists of three total injections over a six-month period. The only consistent side effect is pain or swelling at the injection site. Minimizing cervical cancer is another no-brainer.
Meningococcal meningitis and sepsis infections can be fatal in a matter of hours. A new Meningococcal vaccine is available which covers a higher percentage of the sub-types of Meningococcal bacteria and induces a stronger immunity than the previous one. It should be given at age 11 and will offer protection through the middle school to college years without requiring a booster shot. no-brainer.
Perhaps the biggest no-brainers are the conjugated Pneumococcal vaccine, and the conjugated Haemophilus Influenzae type B vaccine, introduced eight and 20 years ago respectively. These safe vaccines have been very effective in preventing the devastating and often fatal infections. no-brainer.
Measles and Hepatitis B each kills more than 600,000 people each year. Polio is still not eradicated worldwide. Chicken pox is staging a minor comeback. MMR, HepB, IPV, and Varivax vaccinations are no-brainers.
Hepatitis A, a gastrointestinal virus, can rarely lead to severe liver damage. Hepatitis A vaccine is well tolerated and has virtually eliminated Hepatitis A in the southwestern states where the infection was most common. A nationwide effort is underway to eradicate this illness. The vaccine is given at 12 and 18 months of age.
As a parent, it is important to educate yourself about the importance of childhood vaccinations and to keep your child's vaccination records and schedule current. To learn more about childhood vaccinations, the following websites offer useful information: www.cdc.gov/Nip/, www.vaccineinformation.org/, www.nlm.nih.gov, www.unicefusa.org, or www.aap.org.
This article was published as part of the Daily Local News Medical Column series which appears every Monday. It has been reprinted by permission of the Daily Local News.
Last Updated: 7/27/2009