Oct 22, 2018
Most parents would try to move heaven and earth to protect their children. So it’s puzzling that a significant number of parents are choosing to not have their kids vaccinated against childhood diseases—diseases that have been effectively controlled, if not eliminated, thanks to childhood vaccines. As a pediatrician and mom, Katrina Willie-Musoma, M.D., with USMD Mansfield Clinic is concerned that these children aren’t receiving the life-long health protections these vaccines provide.
“Vaccines have kept children healthy and safe for years,” she says. “They are well vetted and go through rigorous safety and clinical trials—which make them very safe.”
Vaccines work by injecting a small part of bacteria or virus into the body, but not the part that actually causes illness. The body recognizes the bacteria or virus and begins to build an immunity against it so the body is protected without contracting the illness.
Clearing up myths about vaccines.
Public concern over a possible link between vaccines and autism have sparked a lot of debate and activist groups, but Dr. Willie-Musoma says there is no valid reason for concern.
“The physician who started the controversy lost his medical license in both the United States and the United Kingdom because he falsified his data saying the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism,” she says. “Numerous medical studies conducted after this physician’s initial study have tried to repeat his results or clarify them, but not one of them has been able to show any connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.”
The falsified data has kicked off another problem. “As a result, there are now many, many more cases of measles due to the lack of herd immunity—a condition that happens because fewer people are being vaccinated,” Dr. Willie-Musoma explains. “That’s very concerning because the measles virus is very contagious. The best thing is for everyone to be vaccinated against measles.”
Parents should be cautioned that children can actually die of the measles.
“It’s actually very concerning for a couple of reasons,” says Dr. Willie-Musoma. “The measles had basically been eradicated for a long time thanks to widespread vaccinations. Medical professionals hadn’t seen many cases. As a result, we now have less experience recognizing it. Our clinical expertise has gone down, and it sometimes takes physicians a little longer to identify a case of the measles. We also have less experience treating it—and time is of the essence in terms of treating measles.”
Along with the risk of death, measles can cause permanent brain damage and hearing loss. “It can be a pretty devastating illness even if you survive it,” Dr. Willie-Musoma warns.
Make sure your kids get these vaccines.
Along with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, Dr. Willie-Musoma advises parents to make sure their children receive all the appropriate vaccines at the appropriate times. Here are her must-have recommendations:
Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Elementary School
Children between two months and six years old should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine that provides powerful protection against three types of bacteria—diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Diphtheria can be a serious upper respiratory infection that can lead to respiratory failure.
Children between two months and six years old should also receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine. At 11 years of age, they should receive the Tdap booster for continued protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Along with the DTaP vaccine, children four years old should also receive booster doses of the polio, MMR, and varicella (chicken pox) vaccine.
Junior high students should receive their first vaccine to protect against bacterial meningitis. It is also recommended that they begin the series of vaccines designed to protect against HPV-related cancers. That series consists of two doses if administered before the age of 15, and three doses if given after the 15th birthday.
No vaccines are required for high school teenagers, but after the age of 16, kids can get a second dose of the meningitis vaccine to protect them against meningitis outbreaks on college campuses, dorms, and at military academies.
The must-have vaccine for everyone!
“Everyone six months of age and older should have an annual flu vaccine,” Dr. Willie-Musoma advises. “Children younger than eight years old receiving the flu vaccine for the first time need two doses of the vaccine given four weeks apart.”
Remember, the annual flu season can be unpredictable. It can begin as early as September or October, peak in January or February, and last until May. “It actually takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to reach its full effectiveness and provide full protection,” says Dr. Willie-Musoma. “That’s why the Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone get their vaccine early.”
For parents wondering if children who have egg allergies can get the flu vaccine, Dr. Willie-Musoma advises that they talk with their pediatrician.
And if you’re waffling about whether or not you and your family really need to get flu shots, think about this: Last winter, the flu hit the hard. “Nearly 30,000 kids were hospitalized and 179 children died from the flu. Nearly 80 percent of the children who died had not received a flu vaccine,” says Dr. Willie-Musoma. “As a pediatrician and a mom, I understand that even some children who receive a flu vaccine may still get the flu, but I am less worried about my patients if they’ve been vaccinated because their illness is likely to be far less severe. If you don’t get vaccinated, you are taking a lot of risks.”
Help prevent the spread of flu germs with good hand hygiene.
School brings an uptick in germ sharing. “Make sure your children have easy access to tissue and hand sanitizer,” Dr. Willie-Musoma advises. “Teach them to cover their cough and how to use hand sanitizer.
As soon as you leave school or get out of a germ-rich environment, use hand sanitizer in the car. When you get home, make sure everyone washes their hands right away. These small acts go a long way in protecting you from cold and flu germs.”
Read more about Dr. Willie-Musoma or schedule an appointment with her at 817.557.5437.