by Kathryn Glass, M.D.
Shiny shoes, sharpened pencils, flashy backpacks, latest fashions, new books, tasty lunch- kids carry a lot of things when they hit the halls.
But what you don’t want your child carrying is illness and disease, nor do you want him exposed to someone who is. That’s why immunizations should be part of every family’s back-to-school routine.
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently released its list of required immunizations for the 2012-2013 school year.
Vaccination requirements that fall under the Texas Education Code include Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP) and a booster of Tdap, Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), Polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Varicella (Chicken Pox) and Meningococcal.
Vaccines that are recommended in Texas, but not required, include influenza, rotavirus and Gardasil (HPV).
The minimum number of required doses is broken down by grade level, which can be a little mindboggling, but a well-child checkup with the pediatrician will get you on the right track.
Even though most children have received the majority of vaccines by age two, booster shots are still needed. Vaccine schedules also change from time to time due to recent outbreaks or vaccination shortages. Your child’s doctor can keep you up-to-date with the latest recommendations.
Many parents are worried about potential side effects of vaccines, but the bigger concern should be about the risk of exposure to, or even infection with, a vaccine-preventable illness, such as measles, mumps, or pertussis.
As more parents choose not to have their children vaccinated, your chances of getting exposed to one of these diseases increases. This means your chance of becoming infected increases–even if you have been vaccinated–since vaccines are not quite 100 percent effective.
We have a social responsibility to protect one another, as well as our own children, by being compliant with vaccination requirements. When everyone is compliant with vaccination policies, we can possibly eradicate these preventable diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common misconceptions about vaccines are that they cause harmful side effects, that vaccine-preventable diseases have already been eliminated in the United States, and that multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time overloads the immune system.
But according to the DSHS in Texas, vaccines are considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, saving numerous lives and even eradicating some diseases. Ironically, it’s the very reason our generation has never seen some of the illnesses that our grandparents once did. Some people don’t recognize the risks and are therefore under-immunizing their children.
For example, before the vaccine existed, there were a half million cases of measles per year in the U.S., resulting in 500 deaths each year. Since we started vaccinating against measles, it has been nearly eradicated, with only 37 cases reported across the United States in 2004.
But as more and more people become noncompliant, the numbers have begun to increase. In 2011, there were 200 cases of measles reported. And in Europe, where they have not routinely accepted the MMR booster shot, there were 30,000 cases of measles in 2011.
Another risk is pertussis, also known as whooping cough. We have learned that the DTaP shots we got when we were babies only offered short-term protection; therefore, a booster shot is now required. When adults become ill with whooping cough, it can mimic a cold virus-but when they pass it on to an incompletely vaccinated baby, it can be deadly.
For parents sitting on the fence about vaccinations, a little education goes a long way. When you look at the statistics of what we’ve been able to accomplish, it’s very reassuring that it’s the right thing to do.
You wouldn’t send your child to school unprepared-holes in the shoes, broken pencils, used paper or torn-up textbooks. Don’t send him without his proper vaccination.
Top five misconceptions related to immunizations:
– Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation.
– The majority of people who get a disease have been vaccinated.
– Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death.
– Vaccine-preventable diseases have been virtually eliminated from the United States.
– Giving a child multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system.
Required: a student must show acceptable evidence of vaccination prior to entry, attendance or transfer to a child-care facility, or public or private elementary or secondary school.
Recommended: a vaccine that has been suggested by the CDC, but is not required by the state of Texas.