After 20 years of practice, giving childhood immunizations is still the most important thing I do. Vaccines have become safer while offering broader protection, yet each year I see more parents refusing them. Watching your child get a shot can be scary (no one likes to make a child cry), immunizations start early (before babies leave the hospital), and we vaccinate often (multiple times in the first year so they are protected as soon as possible). I respect a parent’s to make the final decision. Here are my thoughts on childhood immunizations:
If we hadn’t already discovered vaccines, we would be working frantically to develop them. Humans have extraordinarily strong immune systems. Immunization uses a fraction of that system for about two weeks to make protective, disease specific antibodies without experiencing the illness. National immunization campaigns have virtually eliminated diseases that were common in the United States 100 years ago, including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, smallpox, measles, mumps and rubella. In order to keep these illnesses from making a comeback we need to continue immunizing at least 90 percent of the population. Vaccines are the current best defense we have against serious, preventable and previously deadly contagious diseases.
There is only one schedule. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedule is the only schedule and is updated annually after all available data on effectiveness and safety is reviewed. Its expert members come from national organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), the American Academy of Family Physicians (www.aafp.org) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org). These are the organizations to rely on for accurate immunization facts and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety. No new immunization is added to the schedule until it has been evaluated when given with all the current immunizations. All other schedules are completely untested.
Children get over the pain of the shot quickly. No negotiations, no delaying (it doesn’t help) and no splitting immunizations up into multiple visits. There is no difference in the cortisol level (stress hormone) between children who get one shot or those who get multiple shots. Splitting each set of immunizations into two visits doubles the stress in a child’s life. Giving them one at a time triples it.
We are all part of a community. Belonging to a community means taking care of everyone, especially the most vulnerable members: newborns, grandparents, cancer survivors, pregnant women, and those with illnesses that prevent them being immunized. What seems like an individual choice actually has a significant impact on everyone around you. The more people vaccinated, the less illness there will be. Every community should be a place where children are safe and protected.
Please join me in caring for our community by immunizing your child. I am certain it is the single-best thing both of us can do for her health. I look for forward to our continued partnership.
Angela Beauchaine, M.D., of Boise, is a pediatrician with Primary Health and a member of the Idaho Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
California vaccine rates up with new law
The Sacramento Bee reports that school vaccination rates are the highest in California in more than 15 years after the Legislature toughened requirements.
A new report by the California Department of Public Health found that 95.6 percent of kindergartners in the current school year completed vaccination requirements. This is up from up 92.8 percent in the previous school year.
“I am pleased that this first year of the implementation of SB 277 has resulted in the significant rise of the vaccination rate of this year’s kindergarten class,” said Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who authored the bill. “This success is a first step toward reducing the number of unimmunized people putting our families at risk for preventable diseases, thereby restoring community immunity throughout our state in the coming years.”
Senate Bill 277, signed in 2015, required children without medical exemptions to receive all their shots before enrolling in school and eliminated a provision that allowed parents to seek personal and religious belief exemptions.
EdSource reports that California parents do not have to immunize their children. But under SB 277 children must be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases if they want to attend public or private schools and child care centers.
In order to enter or transfer into public or private schools in Idaho children are required to be immunized, though Idaho still allows a parent/guardian to claim an exemption for their child for medical, religious, or other reasons