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BACK TO SCHOOL 2012: What you need to know about immunizations

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

 

Part of the back to school process is making sure that kids are healthy and that their immunizations are up to date.  GoLocalWorcester talked with UMass Memorial Medical Center's Dr. Safdar Medina about the mandatory and optional immunizations for children and teens.

GoLocalWorcester: What are the mandatory immunizations to enter school?
Dr. Medina: All children require certain immunizations prior to school entry. These are boosters of vaccinations they received as infants and toddlers. These are: DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis), MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Polio, and Varicella. (Chicken Pox) 

GLW: Are there other immunizations required once a child has entered school?
Dr. Medina: Children require additional vaccines when they reach middle school. They are: TdaP (Tetanus and Pertussis) as well as the Meningitis vaccine.

GLW: Are there immunizations that are recommended but not required? Which ones, and when?
Dr. Medina: Yes, there are a few. The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended in childhood, but not required.

GLW: What advice do you give about some of the optional ones?
Dr. Medina: I encourage parents to give their children optional vaccines as well. Hepatitis A outbreaks have occurred in the United States. With regards to the meningitis vaccine, I strongly urge children receive it upon entry to middle school. It now recommended by the CDC that we give teenagers a second dose of the meningitis vaccine prior to college. (Anytime after age 16). This will provide the extra protection they need through college.

There is also the HPV vaccine. This vaccine protects against the sexually transmitted virus, Human Papilloma Virus. This is a sexually transmitted virus; some of the subtypes are linked to cervical cancer in women. It is recommended that all teenagers (male and female) receive this vaccine prior to the onset of sexually activity. I discuss this with teens and parents when the teens are old enough to understand what the vaccine is about.

GLW: Immunizations fell out of favor a while ago with some parents due to their link to autism. Are you seeing that trend continue or reverse?
Dr. Medina: I think this trend is continuing. Despite all the evidence to indicate otherwise, many parents still fear that immunizations may lead to autism. We do our best to reassure patients. I gave my own children all of the required childhood vaccines without hesitation.

GLW: What do the experts say about immunizations and autism?
Dr. Medina: The experts are all in agreement that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

GLW: What diseases are on the rise that can be prevented with immunizations?
Dr. Medina: Unfortunately, we are seeing diseases pop up throughout the country that we thought would never do so. There have been measles outbreaks. Most recently, Pertussis outbreaks have been reported. Infants have been sick with the Hemophilus Influenza bacteria (prevented by the Hib vaccine). This bacteria can cause life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis and epiglottitis, which is an infection in the upper airway that can cause airway closure.

GLW: Anything else you'd like to say about immunizations?
Dr. Medina: I strongly urge parents with concerns about vaccines to ask their health care providers questions. They should strive to keep an open dialogue. Your doctors will work with you to provide you with accurate up-to-date information, allowing you to make an informed decision.

Dr. Safdar Medina, MD, is a pediatric primary care physician at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Tri-river Family Health Center in Uxbridge, where he has worked for 13 years. Dr. Medina went to college at the University of Toronto and medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine, and did his residency training through Brown University School of Medicine at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence. His special interests in the field of pediatrics are: working with children with developmental disabilities and adolescent medicine.   

 

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