AS WE ENTER FLU SEASON while in the midst of a raging pandemic, the topic of vaccinations is on a lot of people’s minds. You may be wondering if you should get a flu shot this year, if a coronavirus vaccine will be safe, and if you should avoid taking your children to the pediatrician for regularly scheduled vaccinations. As these important topics surface, we sought the advice of a medical expert. Dr. Nicole Hinds, a pediatrician with Lakeland Regional Health, took the time to explain to us why maintaining proper vaccination schedules for children is so important.
Nationally, doctors report that they are seeing a decline in the numbers of children coming in for their vaccinations. In March, April, and May, healthcare professionals first noted the marked decline in the number of children receiving vaccinations. This is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had parents concerned about the safety of visiting doctors’ offices right now. While the concern is understandable, the resulting decline in vaccination numbers troubles health officials.
School-age children should have vaccinations for hepatitis B, hepatitis A, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), polio, pneumococcal, and Haemophilus influenzae type b. These vaccinations are generally required for school admission. Infants often also receive the rotavirus vaccine because they are at greater risk of serious complications if they contract that illness.
Parents are also encouraged to have preteens receive the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine. This protects against the common sexually transmitted infection, HPV, which can lead to certain cancers later in life. Some parents have voiced concern that having this vaccine administered to their preteen may promote premature sexual activity. The HPV vaccine is given at age 11 because research shows that preteens produce more antibodies from receiving this shot.
There has been an increasing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children in recent years despite the proven value of vaccinations, but they are still a small minority.
“For the most part, parents generally do vaccinate their kids,” Dr. Hinds says. “We only see about 3 percent who are on the fence or who are definitely not wanting to vaccinate their kids.”
Hinds explains why a decline in vaccinations among children is so troubling. “Vaccines function to prevent disease, so if they’re not being vaccinated, then you’re going to have the reemergence of vaccine-preventable illnesses. So things like measles, which we’ve seen already.
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