Does my child really need all those immunizations?
BY: Kim Schworm Acosta
Beyond a doubt, the many trips to the pediatrician’s office are well worth it, says Gary L. Freed, M.D., director of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and immediate past chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. “Vaccines represent an amazing opportunity for parents to prevent disease in their children,” he says.
Indeed, life-threatening illnesses such as smallpox, diphtheria and polio that can be prevented by vaccinations are at or near all-time lows, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But a recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that an alarming 28 percent of toddlers have not been vaccinated per U.S. guidelines. And the longer the delay, the longer children are vulnerable to disease, says Dr. Freed.
Vaccines are generally given in multiple doses based on a child’s developing immune system, says Freed. In some cases that means receiving up to four doses of the same vaccine over a period of time. “By the last dose, the immune system in more than 90 percent of children will mount a vigorous response if exposed to a certain disease,” he says. But with just one or two doses, the immune system may present a weakened defense or none at all.
If you do get off track with your child’s immunizations, don’t fret: “It happens to a lot of people. But it’s definitely a case of better late than never,” says Freed. A “catch-up” immunization schedule approved by several national medical groups guides pediatricians in administering vaccines at the proper intervals for children who are behind. To learn more about how you can protect your child and find out the current recommended immunization schedule, talk to your child’s pediatrician or visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Web site.
Kim Schworm Acosta is the former health editor of Shape magazine and the health director of VIV. She has also written for Family Circle, Brides, Living Fit and Looking Good Now. Kim is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.