Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vaccines: Good or bad?

     In recent years, vaccination was the topic of much debate and discussion. There were claims that vaccines were causing autism spectrum disorders, and some parents decided to not vaccinate their children. I spoke with Dr. Gail Callaway from Smithsburg Family Medical Center to clear the air.

Why is it important to vaccinate your children?

     “Because it saves lives and protects against the spread of disease,” said Dr. Callaway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees. By vaccinating your child, you not only protect your child, but you protect those unable to receive the vaccine. The CDC noted that if we stop vaccinating, “Diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. More children would get sick and more would die.” Dr. Callaway used this example to illustrate the danger of not vaccinating:
     If a pregnant woman, who is not immune to rubella despite having the vaccination, comes into contact with a child who had rubella and no vaccine, the woman can contract the disease, and, especially if she is in her first trimester, there is a high risk of her child being born with congenital birth defects.

Are vaccines safe?

     Dr. Callaway says yes. All vaccines are tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and then all vaccines are reviewed by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians before a vaccine is officially recommended. Once a vaccine has been approved and recommended, the FDA regularly monitors how and where the vaccines are made, regularly inspecting the facilities and testing each vaccine lot. 

     Though there have been studies released that claim to show a causal relationship between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders, when these reports were re-evaluated for verification, they were found to be faulty and were not validated. Therefore, there is no proven causal relationship between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders.

What vaccines should children have before entering school?

     According to Dr. Callaway, if you have followed the recommended vaccination dates for your children, they should be fine to enter school. If you haven’t followed the recommendations, check here to find out what your state requires. Not all states require the same vaccinations for children entering school.

Once your kids start school, are they done with the vaccination process?

     No. Around the age of 11 or 12, it is recommended that children receive a tetanus & pertussis booster (Tdap), a meningitis vaccine, and a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) (commonly known as Gardasil). Additionally, your children should receive the annual flu vaccine.

Is Gardasil recommended for both boys and girls?

     Yes. According to Dr. Callaway, Gardasil protects against four different strains of HPV- two of which cause 80% of the cases of cervical cancers and two of which cause 80% of genital warts. Though males would not be directly affected by cervical cancer, Gardasil will help protect them against genital warts, and will help protect future partners from contracting HPV.

If you have any questions about vaccinations, please leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

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