Immunization – still saving lives

Immunization – still saving lives
The success stories associated with childhood immunization are well known: polio, a highly contagious disease that crippled thousands of Americans in the early 1950s, has been eliminated in North America. The last case of smallpox was reported in 1977.

As recently as 20 years ago, haemophilis influenzae type b disease, better known as Hib, was the major cause of bacterial meningitis among American children. Hib disease infected about 20,000 children under age 5 each year. Of these, about 3 to 6 percent died and as many as 20 percent were left with lasting effects such as permanent hearing loss or blindness. Thanks to widespread use of the vaccine, introduced in 1988, Hib cases in the United States have declined by 95 percent.

Each year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) draws up a recommended immunization schedule. For 2007, there are two schedules�one for children through 6 years of age and another for those aged 7 to 18. Parents who make use of regular well baby visits should get the reminders they need from their primary care providers


It's also important to stay up to date and keep your own immunization records for your adolescent.

Changes that have been made over the past two years include:

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children 12 to 23 months. Prior to introduction of a vaccine, hepatitis A infection in the United States was highest among children from 5 to 14 years of age. And while infections in young children often produce no symptoms, the disease can later lead to acute liver failure and death.

Rotavirus immunization is advised with oral doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. A recently introduced vaccine, RotaTeq, has been tested and found safe and effective in preventing 98 percent of serious cases of diarrheal illness.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization is recommended for females 11 to 12 years of age. The three-dose schedule can be started as early as age 9; for older females (ages 13 to 26) who have not previously been immunized, a catch-up vaccination is recommended.

HPV, which is associated with genital warts, is a major cause of cervical cancer in adult women.

Varicella, or chicken pox, now requires a second dose of vaccine at 4 to 6 years of age and a catch-up dose for older children, adolescents and adults who have received only one dose.

Influenza immunization each year, with an inactivated vaccine, is now recommended for children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. A new preparation is available that is free of thimerosal.

Information about other immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:

Hepatitis B can be passed between school-age children, and the disease is more likely to be chronic when it's obtained early in life. About 25 percent of infants infected with hepatitis B virus will die of liver disease as adults.

Pneumococcal Vaccination represents another recent success story. Following the introduction of a vaccine in 2000, a 94 percent reduction in pneumococcal disease among children under 5 has been achieved.

Meningococcal Vaccination is recommended for adolescents at age 11 or 12 and other high-risk groups such as college freshmen living in dormitories, military recruits and those who have traveled in certain areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis shots (DTaP) are recommended for children in five doses starting at age 2 with a booster shot for adolescents 11 to 12 years of age who have not had a shot in five years. Whooping cough has been making a comeback over the past 25 years – mostly among adolescents and adults. But older family members can transmit the disease to youngsters who have not been immunized.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine has been successful in controlling three diseases that at one time affected thousands of American youngsters. Occasional outbreaks of all three diseases have occurred recently – highlighting the need for constant vigilance.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster) vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years and older. Shingles is a painful skin rash, usually with blisters on one side of the body or face. For one out of five people, severe pain can continue even after the rash has cleared. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. The virus stays in the body for years and can reappear as shingles.

One person's chance of contracting any of these diseases is low, but only if everyone else is immunized.

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