New guidance for back-to-school vaccines

    Some teens and tweens may need slightly different back-to-school shots this year.

    There’s a new recommendation for the vaccination that protects against meningococcal disease. The bloodstream infection is rare but can spread through the body and kill quickly.

    High school and college students who live and play in close quarters are at higher risk.

    “We’ve discovered that the protection, or at least the antibody that occurs with the MCV vaccine wanes over time. So the new recommendation is that any child that had previously gotten immunized at 11 or 12, needs to have a follow-up immunization or booster at age 16,” said Stephen Eppes, chief of the division of infectious diseases a Delaware’s AI duPont Hospital for Children.

    There’s also new advice to fight a recent resurgence of whooping cough, or pertussis.

    “We’ve always given the pertussis vaccine to infants and toddlers, and pre-schoolers, but now there’s an emphasis on protecting pre-teens and teenagers with a vaccine called Tdap,” Eppes said.

    The HPV vaccine to guard against cervical cancer later in life is also recommended for girls age 11 to 12.

    It’s only August, but Eppes couldn’t get off the phone without an early reminder about the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccine for every child older than six months, and all adults, unless there’s a specific health concern.

    Also this week, experts gathered by the Institute of Medicine released a report on the health risks associated with the most recommended immunizations in the United States.

    The measles-mumps-rubella vaccination can cause temporary aches and pain for some women and children, but the shot does not cause autism, the review found.

    The national panel examined more than a thousand research articles.

    Tennessee pediatrician and health law expert Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton led the group.

    “What we found is that there is very little evidence that vaccines cause harm, and that most of the harms that they do cause are actually relatively short-lived. Although our charge was to look at the risk posed by vaccines, we are all mindful of the strong facts that vaccines prevent lots of harm,” Clayton said.

    Clayton says, in some ways, vaccinations have become a victim of their own success, because in the United States, they have nearly eradicated many once widespread and debilitating diseases.

    The committee also found little evidence that the flu shot causes episodes of asthma or face paralysis.

    Read the Insitute of Medicine report

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