It’s not just babies who need vaccinations

Kalamazoo Gazette

by Linda S. Mah
Wednesday June 10, 2009, 11:00 PM

KALAMAZOO — Bad news, tweens: It’s time for your shots.

Most children undergo a round of immunizations when they are babies and toddlers, completing those vaccinations before they enter kindergarten.

Parents and children often think that’s the end of vaccinations, except for the occasional tetanus booster, said Dr. Randall Dyk.

Part of the challenge of reaching older children is that they simply don’t come into the doctor’s office for regular checkups, as babies and toddlers do, he said.

But new requirements and changes in vaccination recommendations mean kids often need to face the needle again when they turn 11, Dyk said.

At age 11, it is recommended children receive a vaccination for bacterial meningitis. It used to be recommended for students entering college, but a new version lasts longer and can protect children through middle school and high school, Dyk said.

It also is recommended that children at age 11 receive a combined tetanus and pertussis booster. Recent outbreaks of pertussis can be traced to weakened protection from earlier vaccinations, Dyk said.

“You want it so you don’t get pertussis. It’s miserable,” he said. “But kids are also the people who are spreading it to babies and older people, who are the ones who can die from it.”

Gardasil, a vaccine to protect against human papillomavirus, is recommended for girls starting at age 9. It is important for girls to be immunized before they become sexually active and are at risk of contracting HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer, Dyk said.

There are discussions of a Gardasil vaccination for boys, but it remains in trials, he said.

Some children received chicken pox boosters at age 4, but if your child missed that booster, he or she should have one at age 11.

Annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for children and teens. Again, Dyk said, the main reason is to offer protection to more-vulnerable people with whom the young person may come in contact.

PG

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.