Kids Health Matters: Sticking to a vaccination schedule

VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Parents have a lot of questions these days for doctors about vaccines. A local pediatrician explains why getting the scheduled shots is so important.

Little Avi Quinn-Mehrer got a thumbs-up on his six-month wellness check. But there's just one more piece of business: vaccinations against seven serious diseases.

"We make sure never to miss them. We just want to make sure that he's fully protected," said mom Rachel Mehrer of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Michelle Karten of Nemours DuPont Pediatrics says childhood vaccinations teach the immune system to fight off 16 diseases, such as measles, rubella, pneumonia, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and hepatitis B.

"These are the most significant illnesses and in terms of the complications that they can cause," says Dr. Karten. "One in five people who gets measles is hospitalized for complications, one in 20 get pneumonia."

The shot schedule is based on giving kids their best immunity when they're most at risk for an infection.

For example, the HPV vaccine does best given up to age 13. After that, it may take three shots, not two, to get enough immunity.

"When families decide to space vaccines, they're basically giving a window of opportunity that their child might get that infection," said Dr. Karten.

She says parents shouldn't be worried that getting multiple shots at one time will overload a child's system.

"It uses just a teeny bit of the immune system. So it's very safe to get vaccines on schedule," she said

And they not only protect the child getting them, but others around them, in what's called "herd immunity."

Measles have made a comeback in recent years because fewer kids are fully vaccinated. Dr. Karten also says getting a flu vaccine this fall is very important.

"It's incredibly contagious, and it creates a lot of complications for children," she says, noting that an average of three kids die of flu each year for every state in the U.S.

Avi's mom says his brief tears now are much better than a serious illness later.

"He handled it like a champ. He took a couple of them in his legs and then he was fine, like it never happened," said Rachel.

More questions about vaccines? Get answers here from Nemours experts.
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