Teens should get a booster shot to protect them from meningococcal meningitis, a potentially lethal brain infection, and all kids should have up-to-date whooping cough vaccines in light of recent US outbreaks, according to immunization guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), released February 1, 2011, in the journal Pediatrics.
Observant parents might see the 2011 schedule is very similar to last year's AAP recommendations. Yet even without major changes, pediatricians say that looking over the revised schedule is a good opportunity for parents to make sure their children's vaccines are current and complete.
"Immunizations have been the most effective medical preventive measure ever developed, but some people who live in the United States right now don't appreciate how tremendously protected they've been because of vaccines," says Dr. Michael Brady, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious disease, in a HealthDay report. "There are still children around the world dying of measles and polio. The vaccination schedules are designed to get vaccines to the child before they are at the greatest risk," he adds.
So what has changed in 2011? According to the AAP's vaccine revised guidelines:
- Children age 7 to 11 who are behind on their pertussis (whooping) immunizations due to missed doses earlier in childhood should get a booster. Because the vaccine's effectiveness wanes over time, the AAP also recommends pertussis boosters for children age 11 to 12.
- Children who didn't get their scheduled pneumococcal vaccinations, and are still under age 5, should get vaccinated with a newer formulation of the vaccine, Prevnar 13, which guards against additional strains of pneumococcal disease.
- At about age 16, adolescents should receive a meningococcal meningitis booster shot. As HealthDay reports, previous guidelines called for 11-year-olds to receive a meningococcal booster, but protection from the shot starts to fade after about five years, precisely at the time when teens' risk of getting the disease increases.
- Boys aged 9 to 18 "may" get the HPV shot, which protects from some strains of genital warts, particularly those that lead to cervical cancer in women." The shot is recommended for all girls at age 11 to 12.
Confused about your child's vaccine needs? Your pediatrician will be able to tell you how these updates affect your child's immunization schedule.