September 4, 2008
SIU Pediatrician Reminds Parents About Immunizations
There are many precautions that parents can take to ensure their children are healthy. Getting childhood vaccinations are one of the most important.
“Vaccines have historically been one of the most amazing public health endeavors ever. Many life-threatening illnesses that once weighed heavy on the minds of parents and pediatricians are now being fought proactively rather than in a reactive manner thanks to these vaccines,” says Dr. Craig Batterman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that vaccine-preventable disease levels are now at near record lows in the United States.
Each year as school begins children of certain ages must receive vaccinations. The state of Illinois requires immunizations for kindergartners (age four to six) and sixth graders (age eleven).
Two other vaccinations that are recommended but not required may be offered to the sixth graders. These vaccinations are the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) or Gardisil, which protects against ovarian cancer, and the meningoccocal vaccine (MCV4) or Menactra, which helps to prevent meningitis.
Although vaccines are a safe and effective way to reduce the risk of potentially fatal diseases, Batterman says that there tends to be an inconsistent understanding of the importance of immunizations. As certain diseases become less visible, some parents may feel vaccinations are no longer needed. Batterman warns that “we need to remind parents that those diseases haven’t gone away.”
There are populations, especially in Third World countries, that do not follow the vaccination recommendations of the World Health Organization. With world travel on the rise, there is always a risk of communicable diseases being brought into the U.S.
Batterman cautions that U.S. residents must remain vigilant. “If we do not vaccinate our children, we are relying on those around us to get their children vaccinated and provide some kind of secondary immunity to those who do not get their vaccines. If your community decides as a whole not to give vaccinations, then you are not getting exposed to anybody that has been vaccinated and that is a problem.”
He urges that rather than becoming complacent about vaccines, “we should continue to take the initiative and celebrate the fact that vaccines have made a huge difference in pediatrics and in medicine in general.”
As with any vaccine, children may experience side effects or mild reactions. Fever may occur for one or two days as well as pain and redness at the injection site.
Significant problems caused by vaccines are very few. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccines are among the safest and most effective medicines. Most medical experts agree that for almost all children, the benefits of complete immunization far outweigh the risks. For more information about vaccines, parents can check the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site, www.aap.org.
Batterman joined the SIU faculty in 2001. He completed his pediatric residency at SIU School of Medicine (2000) and earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago (1997). He is board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield combines the faculty resources of SIU with the pediatric facilities and services of St. John’s Hospital. The hospital is accredited by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions. Its Web site is www.sjchildrens.org.
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