While I am on the subject of vaccines it is important to remember that it is not only infants and young children who receive vaccines. Children (and even adults) continue to need vaccines and some vaccines are not given until a child is in the tween and teen years.
Why? For one reason, our bodies need booster doses of vaccines to remind our immune systems to keep us protected. Pertussis (whooping cough) is a good example of this. We are in the middle of an epidemic of whooping cough across this country, in part due to the fact that adults had not been re-immunized against whooping cough. Adults who get pertussis often just have a prolonged cough, they do not get as sick as infants and young children. But, they are contagious during their lengthy cough illness and a baby who is not yet protected can get seriously ill and even die from whooping cough. There have been deaths related to whooping cough.
Other vaccines are given during the tween/teen years to prevent a type of meningitis that clusters in adolescents and young adults. Meningococcal meningitis has two peaks, one in children under the age of 1 and again during the teens and early twenties. The first dose of this vaccine is given at age 11 and a booster dose is given at age 16, just prior to teens leaving for college and living in close quarters in dorms and apartments. Make sure your child gets that second dose!
The HPV vaccine is given to tweens to prevent cervical and penile cancers as well as genital warts. The vaccine is given prior to any exposure to the HPV virus as it provides protection, but does not treat HPV infections. Once again, you need a series of 3 vaccines to prevent 4 specific types of HPV, and scientists are hard at work to develop an even better vaccine that will cover more serotypes of HPV. This is really the first anti-cancer vaccine and our children will hopefully see more of these vaccines in their and their childrens life times. Very exciting!
Check your childs immunizations and as we approach summer check up season get your child in to their pediatrician. Dont miss an opportunity to make sure your child is fully protected against vaccine preventable diseases, it is just as important as wearing helmets and seat belts!