Science

Back-to-School: Keeping Up With Vaccinations

School-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines as protection against the flu and a range of potentially serious diseases, many of which have been nearly eradicated in the U.S. because of parents following immunization schedules.

As schools and colleges reopen for classes this week, parents continue to visit family practices, pediatricians and primary doctors to make sure that their kids are vaccinated. This provides children with long-term health, while helping to maintain the health of friends, classmates and others in the community. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare because of vaccines.

“Parents should have few concerns about vaccines, which have proven to be widely safe with just minor side effects that happen infrequently,” says Javier Hiriart, M.D., a pediatrician and physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “The benefits far outweigh any risks. Vaccinations are also covered by most major insurance policies as long as the child is of the right age.”

Protection From 16 Diseases

Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect infants, children and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Some diseases, such as polio and diphtheria, have become rare in the U.S. because of vaccinations. Lately, parents seem more concerned about their child’s exposure to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. There is no vaccine yet available to protect children or adults from Zika. Public health officials are primarily concerned about pregnant women and the potential of severe birth defects caused by the virus.

“We are telling parents that their kids can take standard precautions against mosquitos,” Dr. Hiriart says. Miami-Dade schools officials are referring parents to the CDC website for tips on protecting babies and children.

If parents are unsure of Florida’s school vaccination requirements, they should check with their family doctor or their child’s pediatrician, Dr. Hiriart says.

Keep Track of Vaccinations

“If you’re taking your child to a new physician, always have your child’s vaccination record available,”  Dr. Hiriart says. “Making sure your children stay up-to-date with vaccinations is the best way to protect them and our communities from outbreaks.”

Flu vaccines are especially recommended for kids in preschool and elementary school. In fact, national and state health officials urge that all children 6 months and older, get flu vaccines. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions about vaccinations for your children and teens.

“It’s true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines,” the CDC states. “However, cases and outbreaks still happen.”

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 668 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD).  Moreover, outbreaks of whooping cough at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades.

Depending on his or her age, your child needs the following vaccinations, according to the CDC. (Talk to your child’s doctor for more information on immunization.)

  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis/whopping cough)
  • Polio (IPV)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Pneumococcal conjugate
  • Rotavirus
  • Influenza
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Hib
  • TDap
  • Meningococcal
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.