Parents: Let’s talk immunizations

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

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By Cliff Mehrtens
Novant Health

If you have children going back to school, make sure they are up-to-date on immunizations their school requires. Otherwise, they can’t enroll.

Vaccines are given to children to help prevent diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, chickenpox, polio and measles, but also pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhea — two of the biggest killers in children younger than 5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe vaccines as containing “the same germs that cause the disease, but the germs have been either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick.”

Vaccines help the immune system build up resistance to dangerous diseases.

Required immunizations for North Carolina schools

North Carolina law requires all children in the state to receive the following immunizations, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis — 5 doses
  • Polio — 4 doses
  • Measles — 2 doses
  • Mumps — 2 doses
  • Rubella (German measles) — 1 dose
  • Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) — 4 doses
  • Hepatitis B — 3 doses
  • Varicella (chickenpox) — 2 doses
  • Pneumococcal conjugate — 4 doses

Middle school: Students entering the 7th grade need two doses of meningococcal conjugate. The first is as they enter 7th grade or by 12 years old, whichever comes first. A booster dose is required for students entering the 12th grade or by 17 years old, whichever comes first.

Dr. James Min of Novant Health UVA Health System Bull Run Family Medicine in Haymarket, Virginia, recommended the following immunizations for students (in addition to the required ones):

  • Middle school — Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) and meningitis vaccine
  • High school — meningitis vaccine booster for students ages 16-18
  • College — meningitis vaccine is required, if not already received

 ‘Herd immunity’ helps all

Vaccines are effective 90 to 100 percent of the time. However, some children are not able to get vaccines for certain medical reasons, or because they are too young to be vaccinated. This leaves children without protection, therefore having to rely on “herd immunity.”

The CDC describes herd immunity as when “a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread.”

According to Min, vaccines are one of the most proven things we have in medicine in terms of safety and efficacy.

“I have no concerns with vaccines,” Min said. “Unfortunately, people, especially in the United States, are afraid of vaccines because of what they’ve read on the internet.”

For more information about vaccines for children, check out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guide for parents and caregivers