Back-to-school season is here. It’s time for parents to gather school supplies and backpacks. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your kids are up-to-date on their vaccines.
What’s new with vaccines and why is immunization so important? I caught up with Marcella D. Perez, M.D., with Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates to find the answers:
Why is it important to have your child vaccinated this time of year?
We strongly encourage parents to have their children fully immunized before school starts to help protect other students. Parents help our schools stay healthy by making sure their children have updated immunizations. It is a good idea to get vaccines completed early to avoid the back-to-school rush.
What’s new or different on the vaccine front this year?
Gardasil, which protects against HPV (human papillomavirus), now protects against nine strains of the virus, which are known to cause cervical, vaginal and anal cancer, as well as genital warts. The old version of Gardasil only covered four strains. The vaccine is still offered to both boys and girls 11 to 12 years old, but may be given as early as age 9.
What are the most important vaccines for children?
All CDC-recommended vaccines are equally important. It is especially important for all family members and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old to be vaccinated against whooping cough and influenza. Parents can learn more about the different immunization schedules for infants, young children, preteens and teens by talking to their child’s doctor or visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Are there any vaccines that children in Kentucky/Indiana are required to get for school?
There are several required vaccines for all school-age children in both states, which include hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella (chickenpox), pneumococcal disease and polio. Parents can visit the National Vaccine Information Center website to search for specific state requirements, as well as requirements for day care and college students.
Any advice for parents who are debating whether to get their kids vaccinated?
Making sure our children stay up-to-date on shots is the best way to protect them from preventable disease. Unfortunately, the U.S. has experienced several outbreaks of measles this past year due to the decline of vaccinations. It is our duty to protect children from these diseases to ensure their long-term health and prevent unnecessary illness and death.