Without Immunizations, Their Backpacks Might as Well Be Empty

middle school student, with her backpack, returns to school in San Fernando, CA

Kids’ needs are like their clothes: as soon as they have what fits, they grow and need something different.  This is also true for immunizations, but your SFCHC pediatrician can help keep your child on schedule and protected from illness – and you from missing days of work.

With the return to school, autumn brings reminders to get a flu shot, but did you know that it’s safe for children as young as six months old to start?  Everyone above this age should get the influenza vaccine once a year, but it’s especially important for children under five, who are more likely to suffer complications from the flu.

Children Starting School

Doctors recommend, and most schools require, that children are up to date with certain vaccines by the time they enter kindergarten.  After all, your child will be around more children than they probably have in their life so far, and will need more protection than ever.  The DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), both diseases with cold-like symptoms that spread through air and direct contact and can be fatal.  It also defends against tetanus, which attacks the muscles after being contracted through broken skin.  A vaccine like this is certainly a necessity when boo-boos can’t slow down small children exploring the world!

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.  Rubella usually appears in children as a rash and a mild fever, but if spread through air or direct contact to a pregnant woman, could cause birth defects in her baby.  Though mild in children, mumps can potentially cause meningitis, loss of hearing, and swelling of the brain after spreading through coughing or sneezing, sharing a drink, physical contact, or touching the same surfaces.  Measles is an extremely contagious respiratory disease that starts as a fever and a rash and can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, loss of hearing, or death. 

Polio is a disease that attacks the nervous system, potentially causing permanent paralysis.  The IPV vaccine protects against this very contagious virus that spreads through droplets from coughing or sneezing, or stool on surfaces (remember, this is young children we’re talking about).  And the varicella vaccine protects children from an itchy rash and fever better known by its more common name – chickenpox!

11- to 12-Year-Olds

Sixth grade is another big year for vaccinations.  Your child should get the Tdap vaccine for further protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.  Other important vaccines protect against HPV and meningococcal disease.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes infections that can lead to vaginal and vulvar cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and anal and throat cancer in both sexes.  It’s also the leading cause of cervical cancer, which kills over 4,000 women in the United States every year; women who do survive with treatment are often left unable to have children.  HPV is spread through sexual contact, and most of the cancers it causes can’t be detected until health problems begin.

Meningococcal disease is a bacteria-caused infection that attacks the brain and spinal cord or the bloodstream, and moves so quickly that a person in good health can become very ill in less than 48 hours.  Ten to fifteen percent of people who get the disease die, and survivors can lose limbs or their hearing or suffer damage to their brain or nervous system.  The bacteria travel through saliva spread by kissing, sharing a drink, or even living with an infected person, which is why teenagers and college students are considered especially vulnerable.

Teenagers and Covid

And of course, the rookie player on the infectious diseases team: Covid-19.  Vaccines against this disease are safe to get for children and teenagers ages twelve and older, and like all the immunizations we’ve mentioned, are available at SFCHC. 

And like all immunizations, vaccinating your child doesn’t just protect them, it protects everyone in their family, their school, and their community.  Join SFCHC in making this school year the healthiest it can be.

Heather Hillstrom

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