When our son was an infant, I remember diligently storing his immunization schedule card in the file cabinet, and having it ready for the nurse whenever he received his next scheduled round of shots. As a teacher, I send home immunization informational flyers from our school nurse, and on occasion, help new families understand public school requirements regarding immunizations. Most recently, as a mother of a matriculating college freshman, I was reminded that the immunization schedule for our children continues through 18 years of age.
At the end of this article, I will include a link to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended immunization schedule—an important reminder on a lengthy sequence of childhood medicines. Right now, I will focus on two of the more recent vaccines that were added to the schedule: the meningitis vaccine (MCV4) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Meningitis, or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord tissues, is caused by either bacterial or viral infections. It is airborne contagious and can be misdiagnosed since early symptoms resemble the flu. The attending doctor will perform a spinal tap to get a spinal fluid sample. The fluid is tested for signs of inflammation and to determine if the infection is viral or bacterial. Complications from this illness include neurological damage that can affect hearing or vision. As a college kid, moving into the dorm this summer, our Patrick will receive a meningitis vaccine. Pat hasn’t had this vaccine, and since he is otherwise healthy, one dose is considered enough to protect him in case there is an outbreak in his dorm. Currently, it is recommended that healthy 11-year-olds receive the quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (MCV4.) If your student is older and hasn’t received MCV4, your doctor may advise it, if he or she be living in a dorm type setting, like at college or summer camp.
In 2007, the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced to combat the transmission of this sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer or genital warts. The CDC reported that 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer, while 1 percent of sexually active adults present with genital warts. The CDC recommends that girls aged 11 or 12 be immunized with the first dose. The second dose is given one or two months after that, and the final one three months after that. Boys can also receive the immunizations to guard against genital warts or anal cancer.
As always, consult with your child’s doctor in case of special health circumstances that would change how your child receives these vaccines.
2011 child and adolescent immunization schedules: