Fall is just around the corner, and that means getting our children ready for the classroom. One back-to-school ritual shouldn’t be overlooked: Call your pediatrician now, before the school year starts, to find out if your child has the immunizations he or she needs to enter school or day care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines have contributed to a significant reduction in many childhood diseases, such as polio, measles and whooping cough. A child born today can expect to live 30 years longer than a child born a century ago, according the National Center for Health Statistics.
But vaccines are still an important part of protecting your child’s health. The germs that cause vaccine-preventable diseases and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are unprotected against them.
Like any medicine, vaccination has benefits and risks. No vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing disease. But a child is far more likely to be seriously injured by one of these diseases than by any vaccine, according to the CDC. Most side effects of vaccines are usually minor and short-lived, and serious vaccine reactions are extremely rare.
There is now a vaccine routinely recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls that protects against four types of genital human papillomavirus, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, according to the CDC. And the CDC recently reported that a new vaccine against rotavirus — a condition that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea among infants and young children — is making an impact, leading to the lowest incidence rate since the CDC began monitoring it 15 years ago. Even more hope is on the horizon.
Back-to-school time can be hectic, but keeping track of the immunizations children need is worth the effort. Call your pediatrician or school’s administration office to find out what vaccinations your child might need. You can also visit the CDC’s Web site (www.cdc.gov) for an up-to-date schedule of immunizations for children of various ages.
If your child or adolescent has missed any shots, check with your doctor about getting back on track. It just might save a life — your child’s or someone else’s.