Back to school means new adventures and new health recommendations. Now is the time to talk to your health care provider about vaccines.
"Parents need to increase their knowledge about immunizations," said Shehla Jaffery, a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics who practices at Henry Ford Medical Center–Troy. Jaffery said that a lack of information makes some parents reluctant to obtain needed vaccines for their children.
Vaccines, like all medications, do carry some risks. Common reactions are fever and pain at the injection site. Jaffery agrees with the majority of doctors who believe the risks are small when compared to the benefits of vaccines.
"Parents should always discuss their concerns with the child's doctor," Jaffery said. A parent may be worried about mercury or other vaccine preservatives. Dr. Jaffery pointed out that there are options for needed vaccines if parents are concerned. The best plan for an individual child's immunizations can be worked out between parent and doctor.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases are currently making a comeback, causing unnecessary illness and in some cases, death. Pertussis (whooping cough) is currently on the rise. "All adults in contact with newborn infants should be vaccinated," Jaffery said, so they don't pass the illness on to the baby.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged people planning any travel out of the country to make sure that all vaccinations were up to date. Last year, a measles outbreak occurred in Europe, infecting unvaccinated travelers.
Jaffery pointed out that "back to school" immunization boosters also apply to students heading off to college. Last January, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) updated its recommendations on the meningococcal vaccine. Teens now need a booster dose at 16-18 years of age and college students 19-21 years of age who haven't received the meningococcal vaccine in the past five years should be immunized.
Cost should not be an issue in preventing young children from receiving vaccinations. If your child does not have health insurance that covers the cost of vaccines, Jaffery recommends that parents ask their provider about the Vaccines for Children program. Eligible children, 18 years of age and younger, may receive vaccines through the VFC. "These vaccines are already paid for by federal dollars," she said.
If you choose not to vaccinate your child, Michigan law requires that you have a signed immunization waiver form on file with your child's school.
To make an appointment with Dr. Shehla Jaffery or a Henry Ford pediatrician in your area, visit the Henry Ford Health System website, – or, for a same-day appointment, call 800-HENRYFORD.