Get your child vaccinated before school starts

By Dr. Jason Bowling

With everyone focused on the COVID-19 vaccine the past few months, it might have slipped your mind to schedule your child’s regular pediatrician visit. For best results, babies and children must stick to a strict vaccination schedule.

Texas schools require children to be vaccinated before getting back in the classroom. Schools cannot require your child to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Be sure they have all the required vaccines before the fall.

University Health makes getting vaccinated easy

At University Health, we make it easy to check your kid’s vaccinations off your to-do list. We’re teaming up with local school districts to bring vaccines to you. We’ll have vaccination stations set up across the city through August 25.

Find the full list of vaccination sites and details and make an appointment online.

Pay attention to the recommended immunization schedule

A number of shots are recommend throughout childhood and adolescence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several vaccines scheduled between birth and 18 months are within a tight timeline that should be followed. When you miss an appointment for a scheduled shot, it could put your child at risk for a number of childhood diseases, like the ones listed below, that could be prevented.

Measles

Measles starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Measles is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing.

One infected person can infect 9 out of 10 non-vaccinated people. The measles virus can live for up to two hours in the air and on surfaces after an infected person leaves.

Before the measles vaccination program started in the United States in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people got the measles each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 400-500 died. Measles can have complications of encephalitis.

Mumps

Mumps starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Then, most people will have swelling of their salivary glands. This is what causes the puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw.

Mumps outbreaks still occur, especially at schools, colleges and camps.

Rubella

Rubella (German measles) includes a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a measles-like rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Some people may also have a headache, pink eye and general discomfort before the rash appears. Rubella can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects in an unborn baby if a woman is infected while she is pregnant.

The CDC adds that the last major outbreak of rubella in the United States was in 1964-65. Rubella has been considered eradicated in the United States since 2004. But unvaccinated travelers may bring rubella – or measles or the mumps – home with them from countries where the diseases still persist.

Whooping cough

Pertussis (whooping cough) starts with cold-like symptoms, including a low-grade fever, runny nose and a mild, occasional cough. After one to two weeks, the traditional cough with a “whoop” appears. Patients may be exhausted and vomit after prolonged coughing spells. The disease can last for up to 10 weeks. Pertussis is very contagious.

Whooping cough (pertussis) occurs more frequently in the United States; it is especially dangerous to babies. This is why the CDC recommends pregnant women should receive a Tdap dose between 27-36 weeks’ gestation. This will pass antibodies to the infant and offer some protection after birth.

The best prevention is vaccination

“Vaccination is the most effective strategy available to prevent infections, which is why we don’t see as many people infected with measles, mumps, rubella and pertussis today in the United States,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, Hospital Epidemiologist for University Health.

If a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, it limits the spread of infection by making it difficult to continue the chain of person-to-person transmission, he adds. This can also help protect those people who are unable to get vaccinated or respond to the vaccine due to health problems. This is called “herd immunity” and is important to limit outbreaks of infection.

Vaccines are safe

Many parents have concerns about vaccine safety. The MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine is safe. It requires two doses to be about 97% effective against measles, 88% effective against the mumps and 97% effective against rubella.

The DTaP/Tdap vaccines also are safe. Babies require three doses; young children require two boosters. Adults require a Tdap booster every 10 years to protect against tetanus. The vaccine is 95%-100% effective for 10 years. For pertussis, it is recommended that everyone age 19 or older should receive one pertussis booster (Tdap dose) in place of their 10-year tetanus dose.

The CDC has a website that examines vaccine safety. You can find peer-reviewed studies and research into reactions and safety for all vaccines, including the MMR.

Minors who want to be vaccinated without parental permission should refer to the laws of their state. Some states permit a minor to be vaccinated with the permission of an adult who is a family member, but not a parent. The Texas Medical Association explains the requirements in Texas.

The American Academy of Pediatricians provides easy-to-read charts that cover what's required from birth to six years old and seven to 18 years old.

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