Last week, I wrote about the vaccines that are currently offered to infants under 1 year old. Now, here are the vaccines and my opinions of whether or not they’re necessary from ages 1 to 12.
MMR: Mumps, Measles, Rubella- All diseases that cause fever and rash that are spread like the common cold. They all offer life long immunity once it’s contracted. Measles is very rare now (50-100 reported cases per year, only 1 death every 10 years), mumps is a similar and less severe disease if it’s caught in childhood. Adults have a harder time fighting it, and the vaccine wears off, so boosters are needed. Rubella is the mildest of the 3, but if a pregnant woman catches it, it could cause birth defects in the baby. Only about 20 cases per year are reported in the US now. The vaccine (consisting of viruses from infected humans, saline, cow fetus serum, gelatin, and neonycin) is grown for years in chicken embryo cells. This is a live virus, so a mature immune system is important for kids receiving this vaccine. Side effects can occur for two weeks after the vaccine is administered and can include: mumps, measles and rubella infections, flu like symptoms, muscle soreness, rash, inflammation, chronic arthritis, and encephalitis. Can get it in the combo shot ProQuad with the chicken pox vaccine. Until 2009, you could choose to separate the components, but that’s no longer an option. The AAP recommends an initial shot at 1 yr and a booster at 5 years. If the vaccine is delayed until 3-4 years, it’s likely they would only need one shot. Since the diseases are so very rare now, I plan to wait to vaccinate until my child is closer to age 4 to lower the risk of possible side effects, and mostly because of the risk of spreading disease to pregnant women and their unborn children. I know I would be really, really mad if I caught a preventable disease that negatively affected my innocent child, so in this case, I think it’s best to take one for the team.
Chickenpox (Varicella)- Causes fever and spots all over the body; once contracted you’re protected for life, but the carried virus may come back presented as shingles later. It’s not a very severe disease, at its’ peak it only caused 55 deaths per year, now down to an average of 2 per year. It’s more serious for teens and adults. One brand available, Varivax by Merck made with human embryos and tissue, grown in guinea pig embryo cells, nourished by fetal cow serum, gelatin, MSG, potassium, and neomycin. Since it is a live virus, it is possible to contract chickenpox from the vaccine. Along with the standard side effects, your child may experience a rash or flu like symptoms. Can be given in the combo shot ProQuad with the MMR and chickenpox. The AAP recommends this vaccine be given at 1 and 5 years, but if you delay this vaccine, you can only get one shot and skip the booster. One of the main reasons it appears to be vaccinated against is because of the inconvenience; the 2 week incubation period is contagious, so kids often unknowingly spread it, and then parents have to take 1-2 weeks off work while the disease is present. This one is a no brainer to me; we will be skipping the vaccine and I can deal with being inconvenienced by my child. The booster shot has only been out for 5 years, so we have no way of knowing how effective it really is or for how long, and I’d rather let my child have a minor illness in childhood than risk her getting it more severely as an adult. If she does not catch chickenpox in childhood, we will vaccinate when she nears the teen years.
Hep A- Virus that causes liver inflammation and symptoms of the stomach flu. It’s spread by contact with an infected person’s stool, so outbreaks usually begin at daycares or restaurants. It’s another disease that us more serious the older you are when you get it. Most kids don’t even show symptoms of being sick when they test positive for hep A. There is no treatment, but you can get an antibody to minimize the effects of the disease if you’re exposed. It does not cause fatalities or leave lasting effects, but it can be a lingering disease for adults, especially those with existing liver problems. It’s a newer vaccine, been around since the 80′s, but not widely used until 2006 in an effort to make the US free of Hep A. 2 brands; Vaqta and Havrix, both contain human cells and aluminum. You cannot contract hep A from this vaccine even though it contains the whole virus, as it is inactive. Other than the standard side effects, swelling and redness at the injection site, headaches, and loss of appetite are also common. More seizures are reported after receiving this vaccine than any other shot. There are 11 states that have outbreaks more often than others, and mine isn’t on it, nor do we frequently travel any of the states on that list. IF we decide to get this vaccine (right now I’m leaning more toward no), we will wait until she’s at least two years old to lessen the risk of seizure.
Meningococcal- infection transmitted like the common cold that can spread to organs and cause meningitis and a rash or purple splotches all over the body. Most cases occur in kids in daycare age 6 months to 2, (3,000 per year) with a 10% fatality rate for that age group, 20% rate for teens and adults, and 15% of survivors have a permanent disability as a result. It’s also easily spread in college dormitories, so it’s required for freshman who will live in dorms. It’s usually administered at the age 12 because they’re unsure of the side effects when given at a young age. The only brands available are Menveo and Menactra, which only contains meningococcus and diphtheria toxins and saline solution, and you cannot get the disease from the shot. The standard side effects occur more frequently, as does Guillain Barre syndrome (approximately 1 in 100,000 doses). Even though the side effects worry me, this is one that we will be vaccinating against. We live in a metropolitan area with probably 6 different colleges in a 30 mile radius, and the risk of her getting the disease outweighs the risk of side effects.
HPV: Human Papilloma Virus- an STD that causes genital warts and cervical cancer, most common STD in the US, an estimated 20 million cases per year. It’s only given to girls (and I think boys now too) ages 9-26 years, and there has been a big push in recent years trying to get middle school age kids vaccinated before they become sexually active to prevent the spread of the disease. 2 brands Gardasil (protects against the cancer strains and wart strains) and Cervarix (protects only against cancer strains), both contain aluminum and polysorbate. We personally will not be getting this vaccine because we believe in the (sadly antiquated) idea of abstinence until marriage, thus there is no need to vaccinate against an STD. She may disagree with us (and I pray she doesn’t), but if that’s the case, she can pay to receive the vaccine once she’s an adult.
Knowing everything I know now, I feel much better prepared for her 12 month well visit, which I can’t believe is just a few weeks away!