SEATTLE — Many parents know the importance of their children receiving vaccines when they are a baby or toddler. But as your child grows up, there are still immunizations that protect your pre-teen or young adult.
On average, young children typically see the doctor at least 10 times in the first two years of life. "During those visits, we check for growth and development issues as well as give them the vast majority of their initial start vaccines," explained Dr. Neil Kaneshiro, Premera Blue Cross associate medical director, pediatrician and chairperson for the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington.
As children get older, annual visits help doctors keep an eye out for potential concerns and ensure they are up to date on their vaccines.
"There's over 80 cases of measles that have been circulating in Washington state, over 1,000 nationwide," stated Dr. Kaneshiro. "The vast majority of those affected patients were not immunized. That is dangerous not only to the people around them, but the community at large."
Doctors usually recommend parents should wait until their child reaches 12 to 15 months to get their first measles immunization, with the second dose administered at ages 4 through 6.
Routine immunizations should continue throughout childhood and adolescence -- especially at age 11, when the Tdap vaccine is administered (required for school) and the meningitis and HPV vaccine series should start.
"Each vaccine is an opportunity to prevent severe disease, illness, and injury. The vaccines that we have today prevent hearing loss, brain damage and mental retardation, and cancer. HPV is actually a cancer vaccine, and that is how we really should be viewing that," said Dr. Kaneshiro.
Thanks to the Washington Department of Health's immunization registry, you can create a MyIR account and easily view, download, and print your family's immunization records if they are treated in Washington State. This also provides a record of immunizations which many schools require. For those vaccinated in other states, check the CDC website.
It's helpful when students kids head off to college to help them make sure their vaccines are up to date.
For those interested in study abroad programs, pediatricians or primary care doctors can administer immunizations for conditions like typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever, depending on where the student plans on traveling.
Contact your physician if you have questions about what vaccines are suggested for you or your child.
As Dr. Kaneshiro said, "Vaccines and immunizations provide the best healthy start for kids. They are well researched, the evidence shows that there are no significant side effects to these vaccines, and they're the recommended first start for kids."