2009-08-14 / Columnists

SJEH Wellness Corner

Giving The Facts On Back-to-School Vaccinations
Commentary By Allan Steinberg, MD Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, St. John's Episcopal Hospital

Allan Steinberg, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, St. John's Episcopal Hospital Allan Steinberg, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, St. John's Episcopal Hospital For children and their parents, going back to school means going back to vaccinations. Now is the time to check your child's immunization record to make sure it is up-to-date.

Though individual immunity is crucial, community immunity is of grave importance. The higher the number of protected citizens, the less likely a disease is to spread from child to child and cause an epidemic. Only when the vast majority of the population is immune can the community immunity be attained.

The New York City Board of Education, in compliance with the New York State Health Department, recommends that children under the age of six should already have the following vaccinations: hepatitis A and B; diphtheria; tetanus; pertussis (DTaP) Haemophilus in_uenzae type b (Hib); polio (IPV); pneumococcal disease (PCV7); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); varicella

chickenpox); and rotavirus. Children who are 11-years-of-age and older should be receiving the following vaccinations: tetanus; diphtheria; pertussis (Tdap); meningococcal disease (MCV4); human papillomavirus (HPV); and influenza.

These vaccination shots introduce the child's immune system to a harmless portion of the microorganism for each disease. After being exposed, the immune system works to destroy any real offenders that may be encountered in the future.

Contrary to popular belief, even though many of these diseases have the potential to be eliminated, outbreaks of diphtheria, measles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases still occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1989-90, measles broke out among unimmunized immigrant children in Southern California, causing 43,000 cases and 101 deaths.

In 2008, the CDC had confirmed another measles outbreak with reports of 64 cases in nine states. The risk of contracting these diseases remains imminent.

Many parents are apprehensive about vaccinating their children due to myths regarding the treatment. One myth is that vaccinations pose more of a threat than not getting vaccinated. However, physicians found that whenever immunization rates begin to decrease, diseases rapidly reappear. In today's global society, there are many opportunities every day for the reintroduction of microorganisms into the community, so it is vital to protect against them. Some parents believe that their children are better off naturally being exposed to diseases. What they do not know is that, unlike being naturally exposed, vaccinations allow a person to be protected from the disease without experiencing the serious adverse effects of that illness.

Today even with better hygiene and sanitation, preventable diseases have not been eradicated. Since the 20th century, infectious diseases have been better controlled due to the advances in hygiene and sanitation, such as clean water and pest control. However, the rate of vaccine-preventable diseases only began to drop dramatically after the vaccines for those diseases were certified and began to be used in large numbers of children.

Those who may be deciding whether or not to give their children vaccinations, should consider the World Health Organization's statement that "In the 21st century, it is every kid's right to live free from vaccine-preventable disease."

Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements of medicine and has saved millions of people from the effects of these devastating diseases.

St. John's Episcopal Hospital recommends that parents get their children vaccinated before the upcoming school term. Help protect your children and your community.

For more information about child vaccinations please contact the Pediatrics Practice at St. John's Episcopal Hospital at: 718- 869-7690. Most insurances are accepted and a sliding fee scale is available.

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