WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Vaccinations impact the world, and save lives globally. That's why it's especially important for parents to ensure their children are properly guarded against disease with the necessary antibodies.
"Vaccines protect your child and everybody else with whom they come in contact with against serious and often deadly diseases," said Dr. Jill Ratner, assistant medical director at CareMount Medical.
According to Ratner, vaccinations work through a form of biological subterfuge. During a vaccination, particles that resemble proteins of an infection fool the immune system into creating a natural defense to the ward off the invasion. "As a result, vaccines leave the body with antibodies that can recognize and fight off actual diseases should a person be exposed to them," she said.
Thanks to the success of vaccination programs in the United States, few Americans today have experienced devastating disorders such as diphtheria and meningitis, which historically kill thousands of children and adults. And despite some parents questioning the safety of vaccines, Ratner assures patients that forming these antibodies is both safe and important.
"With school back in session, it's important to check your child’s records to determine what additional immunizations may be needed," she said. "No federal school-immunization law is in place; rather, each state manages its own required vaccination guidelines."
In New York State, every student must be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and varicella. Students attending grades 7-12 must also be immunized against meningococcal disease.
"Preteens (ages 11-12) should receive Menactra®, which protects against meningococcal meningitis; Tdap, to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; and the HPV vaccine, to minimize risk of developing cancers caused by the human papillomavirus," said Ratner. A common virus, HPV is spread through sexual contact and can cause various types of cancers in both men and women. When administered during the preteen years, the vaccine offers a higher level of immunity.
"Parents play a crucial role in empowering their older children to become willing participants in the vaccination program," said Ratner. Before a wellness visit, Ratner suggested adhering to the following steps:
- Record your child’s immunization history; bring that information to your pediatrician’s office.
- Check your state’s website for the required vaccination schedule.
- Prepare your child by reminding them what to expect and why vaccinations are important.
After the visit, she recommended that parents take the following steps:
- Review vaccine information provided by the doctor.
- Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness or swelling that may develop at child’s vaccination site.
- If pain develops and the doctor approves, offer your child a non-aspirin pain-reliever.
- Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids following vaccination.
- Contact your pediatrician should your child develop any unexpected reaction.