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Health Team

Doctor: Maintain vaccination schedules to keep kids, others safe

Posted August 8

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it's a reminder for parents to catch up on immunizations for their children as they head back to school.

WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask says it's always best to get your child vaccinated on schedule. Protecting your child with vaccines should be as automatic as buckling your seat belt, said Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Richard So.

"You put your kid in a car seat every single day," So said. "You buckle that seat belt every time you get in the car. I think vaccines are just as important as putting on your seat belt."

So recommends the vaccination schedule promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some people may not see the importance of vaccination, since many of the targeted diseases aren't as common now. However, infectious disease experts say that attitude has helped some diseases make a comeback, such as measles, mumps and polio.

Don't let fear of needles cause you to delay your child's vaccines, Mask said. Waiting too long to get vaccinations puts kids at risk for harmful diseases.

Stick to a schedule to eliminate that risk and to avoid confusion about which vaccines were given and when.

The flu vaccine is important for children because it protects them from the flu and from complications of the flu. But it also protects other children from catching the illness.

"It's a community decision—keeping everybody safe–—because there are certain children that cannot get the vaccines, whether they have immune problems, or their bodies cannot respond to the vaccines," So said.

Many parents do a good job with vaccines when their kids are young because there is typically a closer relationship with their pediatrician soon after the child is born. Pediatricians often remind parents about a series of immunizations before they reach school age.

Once children get older, though, parents may only come to the pediatrician when their child is sick.

Mask said it's important to keep a routine, though, as adolescents need to update shots for tetanus and meningitis, as well as for Gardasil, which helps prevent HPV—a two-dose vaccine separated by five months.

With the HPV vaccine, it's recommended children get it when they are 11 or 12 years old, which gives the vaccine time to become effective in preventing certain cancers in both males and females before they become sexually active.

The flu vaccine presents a similar situation: The longer a person delays getting the flu shot, the more higher the risk of getting infected with the virus before immunization kicks in.

Many doctors' offices and other health providers are offering flu shots for the coming flu season, which typically runs from November through May.

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