Childhood immunizations matter

Contributing ColumnistAugust 4, 2014 

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In my daily routine of caring for children, there are always the questions: "Does my child need to be immunized?" and "How safe are the vaccines?"

With the radical advancements in medicine and vaccine programs, children can now be protected from certain viruses and bacteria. Several decades ago, it was not uncommon for infants and children to succumb to preventable diseases that we now vaccinate against.

One of the most tragic things I see as a pediatrician is a patient dealing with an illness that he or she should never have had to experience, especially when a visit to a pediatrician and a readily available vaccine could have prevented the suffering.

Recently, we have seen a resurgence of outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough), measles and rubella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting about 550 cases of measles nationwide. There have been more than 10,000 reported cases of pertussis in 2014, with the highest risk of death from pertussis occurring in infants younger than 3 months.

It is equally important that adults and children receive the seasonal influenza vaccine in the fall. Children younger than 5, and especially infants younger than 6 months , are at risk of complications from influenza.

The resurgence of these common vaccine-prevented illnesses is partly due to the fact that parents have decided not to vaccinate their child or delay certain immunizations. I encourage parents to ask thorough questions about each immunization that is given and suggested.

If parents want to get more information about required immunizations for school, an up-to-date immunization schedule and the latest immunization news, they can go to either the CDC website, CDC.gov, or the American Academy of Pediatrics website, AAP.org.

Immunizations that parents want to pay close attention to include MMR, varicella, hepatitis series (A and B), meningitis, tetanus booster, Gardasil and the influenza vaccine, especially during the fall and winter.

The most common side effects that occur with vaccine administration are local redness at the site of injection, pain, low-grade fever and sometimes irritability. The benefits always outweigh the risk when receiving these scheduled immunizations.

For the health of your child and community, do not delay or forgo immunizations. If you still have questions and concerns always feel free to discuss them with your pediatrician.

Dr. Jai Gilliam, a pediatrician and internal medicine specialist at Baptist Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Brannon Crossing, practices at Baptist Health Lexington.

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