WAXAHACHIE — Over the past month, family medicine and pediatrician offices across North Texas have seen the usual annual influx of kids getting their check-ups before the start of the new school year. With those check-ups, often comes a round of vaccinations that every child is required to have to attend public school in the state of Texas.
In addition to the eight required vaccinations designed to protect children against illnesses ranging from polio to hepatitis to chicken pox and beyond, there are other immunizations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and numerous other health care organizations.
And while no parent likes to see his or her child smarting from the prick of yet another vaccination needle, the global medical community remains steadfast in its belief in both the safety and efficacy of vaccines to prevent potentially life-threatening conditions.
“I have four children,” said Jesus Trejo, MD, a family medicine physician on the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie medical staff. “If I didn’t feel vaccines were safe, I certainly wouldn’t give them to my own children.”
In addition to the vaccines required by the state of Texas, some of these optional vaccinations are widely recommended by physicians for babies and school-aged children. One of the earliest ones – given at two and then again at four months of age – is the rotavirus vaccine to guard against a virus that causes severe diarrhea.
“Rotavirus is mainly seen in parts of the developing world,” explains Dr. Trejo. “So while we don’t see a lot of it around here, with so many kids going to day care where disease can easily spread, it has become part of the standard of care for prevention.”
Dr. Trejo, along with many other physicians, also promotes the Haemophilus influenza type B vaccination for babies and toddlers. This immunization can help prevent pneumonia and meningitis, which are potentially lethal conditions in small children with still-developing immune systems.
Starting at six months of age, children also should start receiving an annual flu vaccination. According to the CDC, each year tens of thousands of Americans die of flu and flu-related complications. Vaccination not only can keep kids from falling ill for a few days but also prevent the spread from children to more vulnerable individuals – like babies and grandparents – who may have more difficulty recovering.
“You may worry about feeling bad for a week, but flu can go on to cause severe pneumonia and serious health complications,” said Dr. Trejo.
Besides vaccinations for young children, there is an important vaccine adolescences and teenagers should receive the HPV vaccine. This vaccine prevents most cancers associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV), especially cervical cancer.
“Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV,” Dr. Trejo explained. “The HPV vaccination prevents the two specific strains of the virus, which accounts for the vast majority of cervical cancers in the world.”
The vaccination also helps guard against other types of throat cancers caused by the virus.
There are many other vaccines available for kids and young adults. Parents should discuss options with their child’s health care provider both for their child’s protection and their own peace of mind.