You've probably got a long list of things to shop for and do as your child goes back-to-school - but don't forget to schedule a visit to your pediatrician. Schools in Utah require immunizations before entering pre-school, kindergarten, and seventh grade.
"Most parents don't realize there are two important vaccines for children that aren't required by schools but are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Those two important vaccines are for human papillomavirus, or HPV, and the flu," says Shellie Ring, MD, a pediatrician at Intermountain Riverton Hospital in Riverton, Utah.
Why is the HPV vaccine recommended for young teens?
HPV is a common virus that's most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. One in four people are currently infected with HPV in the U.S. including teens. The HPV vaccine helps protect against common sexually transmitted infections that can cause cancer.
HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who's sexually active can get HPV, even if you've had sex with only one person. Even if your child isn't currently sexually active, the HPV vaccine protects them throughout their life against future partners who may be carriers of the HPV virus.
"Why not protect your child while they're under your umbrella of care?" says Dr. Ring. "You don't know the choices your child will make in the future, nor do you know the choices their mate will make in the future. You can have a child who made all the right choices, and they can still get this type of cancer. Divorce rates are 50 percent here in Utah. Getting the HPV vaccine for your child now will protect him or her from future cancers caused by HPV."
Children can receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 and need only two shots if they start the series before age 15
Starting the HPV vaccination at a younger age is smart, because your child will be protected earlier and will only need two shots instead of three.
Current recommendations for the HPV vaccine from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
- 11- to 12-year-old girls and boys should receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart.
- Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, will need three doses of HPV.
What kind of cancers and diseases do HPV infections cause?
- Cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women
- Cancers of the penis in men
- Cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in both women and men.
According to the CDC, 60 percent of adolescents nationwide received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine in 2016, an increase of 4 percent from 2015.
Side-effects to the HPV vaccine are mild. They include redness, pain, swelling, joint pain, and nausea. Physicians suggest those receiving the vaccine stay in the office for 15 minutes afterward as a precaution, since there's some likelihood some patients may faint afterward.
The flu vaccine is important because the flu can be deadly for young children
"Parents need to shift their thinking about why we give the flu vaccine. It not only helps prevent influenza, but more importantly, it helps mitigate the illness if they get it, which includes preventing serious complications and even death," says Dr. Ring.
Statistics show healthy children can die from the flu and the vaccine can save lives. Influenza is the number-one cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in U.S. children, according to the National Vital Statistics Reports (Vol. 65, No. 5, June 30, 2016).
More than twice as many children under age 14 die from the flu each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined (polio, measles, whooping cough, hepatitis, and meningitis) according to the Fluzone Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine 2017 Fact Sheet.
"A major study of children under 18 who died of the flu found that 50 percent were otherwise healthy. Of those healthy children who died, 78 percent weren't fully vaccinated," says Dr. Ring.
Children under 5 are especially susceptible to the flu, according to a study in Utah's Public Health Data Indicator-Based Information System. The statistics speak for themselves.
How old do children need to be to get a flu shot and how often should they get one?
Flu vaccines are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control every year for babies more than six months old and children and teens.
Can you get the flu from the vaccine?
"You cannot get influenza from the flu vaccine. You can definitely get side-effects like a slight fever, scratchy throat, and nasal congestion, but not the flu, which has more severe symptoms," says Dr. Ring.
What are the symptoms of influenza?
- Fever of 101-105 degrees for 5-7 days
- Cough and congestion
- Body aches
- Some vomiting and diarrhea in younger children
- A typical duration of 7-10 days
What are some complications of the flu for children?
Children can develop an ear infection, pneumonia, or may need to be hospitalized and can even die from the flu.
When will the 2018-2019 flu shot be available?
This year's flu vaccine will be available by October.
To find a pediatrician, visit https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/pediatrics/our-doctors/