There was a time when mumps and chicken pox were rites of passage for American children. Oatmeal baths and ice cream sodas were the medicine of choice for bed-ridden children who got to miss school and watch TV all day. Other diseases like polio and Spanish flu had their grip on the nation, and could render a victim helpless and could often times could be fatal.
The latter half of the 20th century brought with it medical innovations, many of which directly combatted disease. Together with public sanitation and health education, vaccinations were responsible for the near eradication of many once-thought invincible diseases.
Now there is a theory that, since diseases like polio and Rubella are practically non-existent in modern society, there is no reason to vaccinate against them. This is a myth worth busting immediately.
Failure to protect against disease not only leaves you vulnerable, it puts at risk those with weakened immune systems, healthcare workers, public safety officials, foreign (unvaccinated) populations, the elderly, and children. That’s pretty much everyone who might not be vaccinated.
Why Teens Should Get Immunized
The goal of public health is to prevent disease. Teens usually are in close quarters, sharing everything from lockers and lunches to lipstick. In the locker room, in dorms, studying in the library or hanging out at a sleepover, teens are exposed to a lot of germs.
Immunizations protect them from serious illnesses and prevent the spread of diseases. Teens may be especially vulnerable because of weakened immune systems from lack of sleep, diet, and exhaustion from being, well, teenagers.
CHC Immunization Recommendations for Teens
By the time your child reaches the preteen and teen years, all required vaccines and their series from infancy on should be complete. At this stage your teen requires some other specific vaccines, and perhaps booster shots too. The Centers for Disease Control revises its immunization schedule each year to reflect current recommendations for vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has issued the following guidelines to immunize teens. If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor about –
- Tdap Vaccine – protects from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
- HPV Vaccine – protects against human papillomavirus is linked to cervical cancer, genital warts, head, neck and throat cancers. HPV vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys.
- Meningococcal Vaccine – protects against certain types of meningitis. Many colleges and summer camps mandate this vaccine before starting school.
- Influenza (Flu) Vaccine – everyone age six months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. The flu virus mutates every year and vaccines are adjusted accordingly. Just because you or your teen got one last year doesn’t mean it is effective now.
- Hepatitis A Vaccine (HepA) – given in two doses at least six months apart.
- Hepatitis B Vaccine (HepB) – spread among teens through drug abuse and sexual activity. It can be life threatening and cause long-term liver disease.
- Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) – given to those who have not had an all-IPV in childhood; international travel to certain parts of the world raises the chance of catching the disease as well.
- Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine (MMR) – if your child wasn’t vaccinated in childhood.
- Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine – if your child is over 13, and has never had the vaccine, two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.
Today, vaccines are regarded as very safe and essential to your child’s health, and it is critical that your child gets the right immunization when the body is ready for it. (As an example, the measles vaccine has been found to be ineffective before the child is one year old). Some vaccines require multiple doses before complete immunization occurs. For these to be effective, it is important that the doses are given at specific intervals.
Doctors have developed schedules for immunizations. If a child misses a recommended dose at a given age, he or she can catch up later.
Be sure to keep accurate vaccinations be up-to-date and recorded. Proof of childhood immunization is required for public school, day care programs and even travel.
Children’s Health Care of Massachusetts (CHC Mass) can answer any questions you have about vaccinations and preventive healthcare for your child. Contact your preferred CHC location in Newburyport or Haverhill to schedule a comprehensive health consultation today.