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Back-to-School Immunizations By Dr. Blair Duddy

Back to School Shots

With the school year quickly approaching, it is important to ensure that all students are up to date on their immunizations.

Under state law, children are only exempt from vaccination requirements if their parents or guardians have submitted a written statement to a school’s governing body indicating their religious beliefs prohibit immunizations. Medical exemptions are also permitted.

Proof of immunization is a prerequisite for enrollment in all Nevada public schools for children who are not exempt. Immunizing your child is extremely important, especially when they are preparing to enter a school environment where they will be exposed to a large population of people and face a greater risk of contracting harmful diseases that could cause serious health issues.

As your children head back to school, make an appointment with your pediatrician to ensure they receive the necessary immunizations required by our state.

A child can receive up to 24 vaccinations by the age of 2. These are targeted to ensure children are protected against as many as 14 different diseases at an early age. Although this may seem like a lot for a young child, a vast amount of experience with this regimen and scientific research supports the fact that the immune system is very capable of handling the vaccines. The human immune system is exposed to billions of organic and inorganic substances, or antigens. With this in mind, 24 vaccines in two years is not a burden to the system. These vaccines are necessary because the immune systems of young children are not fully mature, which leaves them more susceptible to infections. Immunization schedules are developed by physicians and public health experts to provide the most complete protection for children. Most immunizations are recommended until the age of 18. It is important to consult your pediatrician or family practitioner for the most current immunization schedule.

The physicians at HealthCare Partners Pediatrics recommend the following immunizations for all children up to 6 years old:

• Hepatitis B
• Rotavirus
• Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis
• Haemophilus influenzae type B
• Pneumococcal
• Poliovirus
• Influenza
• Measles, mumps, rubella
• Varicella (chickenpox)
• Hepatitis A
• Meningococcal (for certain high-risk groups)

Immunizations serve to protect your children and the community from the spread of infectious diseases. Preventing diseases is much easier and more cost effective than treating them. This is why vaccines serve such a vital role in safeguarding public health. A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that immunizations prevent 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with a savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs in the U.S.

Vaccines are biological preparations that stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that fight off a particular bacterial or viral infection before it can make you sick. They contain an agent that resembles the disease-causing microbe or are made from a weakened or killed germ. Once stimulated, the antibodies circulate through the bloodstream and attack the infectious agent. Through this mechanism, immunizations are usually able to fight the onset of a disease or reduce its severity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. achieved measles elimination in 2000, meaning the disease no longer spreads year-round in this country. However, this year at least 539 people across 20 states have been infected with the measles virus. The CDC found that cases have been driven by unvaccinated people who obtained the virus in other countries, brought it back to the U.S. and subsequently spread it in their communities, where many others were also not vaccinated. Pertussis, another vaccine-preventable disease, has spread widely in our neighboring state of California. As of June 27, 4,558 cases of pertussis were reported in California since the beginning of 2014.

The re-emergence of these diseases has been attributed to the anti-vaccination movement, which centers on the myth that vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. This myth gained popularity as a result of a medical study published in 1998. The study has since been retracted, and the physician who led the study has had his medical license revoked. However, dangerous misinformation about vaccines still persists.

A report published on July 1 in the official journal of the AAP screened more than 20,000 scientific titles and 67 papers on vaccine safety, and the report showed once again that there is no evidence that immunizations cause autism. Furthermore, the report indicated serious and harmful reactions from vaccines are extremely rare. Time and again studies have consistently shown us that vaccines are safe, and their benefits far outweigh any risks.

I am grateful that we have vaccines to prevent infections that I saw children die from 20 years ago. My children, and the children of every pediatrician I know, are fully vaccinated. As someone whose professional career is devoted to the health of children, I would never recommend something I wouldn’t do for my own children.

Although closely following the immunization schedule is essential, it is never too late to immunize children to protect them from potential outbreaks of infectious diseases. If your child’s immunizations have been delayed for any reason, it may be difficult to figure out how to catch up. The CDC has developed a useful tool to help parents create immunization schedules. Parents can access this resource by visiting https://www.vacscheduler.org/. Be sure to consult your doctor to ensure vaccines are administered on schedule.

Disease prevention is a key component of our philosophy at HealthCare Partners Pediatrics. Our mission is to ensure that our youngest and most vulnerable patients are immunized and protected. The HealthCare Partners Durango Pediatrics clinic recently received the Silver Syringe Award from the Southern Nevada Immunization and Health Coalition, an honor celebrating the clinic’s outstanding immunization rates.

HealthCare Partners also participates in the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. This program helps provide vaccines to children whose parents or guardians might not be able to afford them. To find out if your local HealthCare Partners provider participates in the VFC program, or to consult a pediatrician about immunizations for your child, visit http://www.hcpnv.com/lasvegaspediatrics.