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Childhood Immunization Recommendations: A Guide for Parents

All parents want their children to grow up healthy and free from the effects of serious disease. One of the easiest and most effective steps parents can take toward achieving this goal is to make sure that their children receive all recommended childhood immunizations.

Because of the importance and effectiveness of childhood vaccinations, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provide new immunization recommendations for children every year. 

What are some important changes to the vaccination recommendations?

“One major change in the 2010 immunization schedule is the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccination,” says Erin Schnepp, D.O., medical director of the Crozer Pediatric Physicians at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “The vaccination, Prevnar 13, will protect against 13 strains of the virus, as opposed to the seven strains that were protected in previous years. It will now protect children against more forms of bacterial infections that can cause meningitis, pneumonia, ear infections and other diseases.”

According to the FDA, Prevnar 13 should be given to children 6 weeks through 5 years of age.

“Another big change that could potentially affect the new recommendations is the addition of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for boys and men,” Schnepp adds. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved use of the vaccine Gardasil for the prevention of genital warts due to HPV in boys and men, ages 9 through 26.”

Gardasil is currently being administered to girls and women ages 9 through 26 for the prevention of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer caused by HPV. With the vaccination for boys and men approved, this will aid in the fight against sexually transmitted infections caused by HPV.

Why is it important that my child be vaccinated?

“Vaccinations have significantly reduced the amount of childhood illnesses, such as measles, whooping cough, pneumonia and the flu,” says Richard Z. Kaplan, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Because of vaccinations, illnesses that were once fatal to the U.S. population, like polio and smallpox, have been eradicated.”

According to the FDA, 20th century immunization programs were extremely successful. Because of this, many of today’s parents have never seen many of the diseases and do not understand the potential for them to re-emerge. If too many individuals choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, the diseases that are now rare or non-existent in this country may resurface.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunizations are a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and are estimated to avert over 2 million deaths each year.

What diseases do vaccines prevent?

Immunizations protect children against:

  • Hepatitis B 
  • Rotavirus (causes severe diarrhea in babies and young children)
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus (Lockjaw), Pertussis (Whooping cough) 
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b4 (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal (pneumonia)
  • Polio
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningococcal (meningitis)

What are some side effects and risk factors of childhood vaccinations?

Most adverse effects of vaccines are usually minor and short-term,” Kaplan adds. “Some of these effects include soreness at the injection site, fussiness and mild fever.”

Serious vaccine reactions are extremely rare, but can happen. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat or dizziness. If your child shows these symptoms after getting vaccinated — or if she shows other unusual symptoms, such as a high fever or behavior changes — don’t hesitate; call your doctor or bring the child to the doctor’s right away.

When should my child be vaccinated?

The 2010 childhood immunization schedule can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, at www.cdc.gov. Vaccinations usually start when your child is a newborn and most are finished by the time he or she is 6 years old.

For more information about the 2010 childhood immunization schedule, visit www.cdc.gov, the American Academy of Pediatrics website at www.aap.org, and the American Academy of Family Physicians website at www.aafp.org.

If you have questions about your child’s health and whether or not they should be vaccinated, talk to your doctor. To find a Crozer-Keystone pediatrician who’s right for your child and make an appointment, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit Crozer-Keystone’s Children’s Health homepage at http://ckhealthykids.crozer.org.

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