Keep your children's vaccines in check this fall

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School is back in session and flu season isn't too far away and that means keeping up with your children's vaccine in order to protect from potentially deadly viruses.

But the vaccine schedule can be complex with updates and new recommendations. Some of the newer vaccines for teenagers are the meningitis and the human papilloma virus vaccines or HPV.

Doctors say it's never too late to get your shots and for expecting moms, it's never too early.

Brittany Johnson is expecting a baby boy just eight short week. She listened to his heart beat as she takes steps to protect his little heart.

"I think it's just important that the baby stays as healthy as possible and having your TDaP up to date as well as the flu shot, it's just very important to keep your baby safe and healthy," said Johnson.

Dr. Dennis Breen, MD with UW-Health in Eau Claire said vaccinations should begin before the baby is even born.

"So most important thing is that moms get vaccinated for influenza. In fact, influenza is a very dangerous disease for pregnant moms, so they need to get that. So that protects them but also passes some immunity to the child as well," said Breen.

Breen said influenza-related deaths happen every year. Last year, he said there were about 1700 hospitalizations linked to influenza and about 300 were in Wisconsin.

Starting from birth, there's a series of vaccines recommended for babies. But because the earliest age for a flu vaccine is six-months Breen says he recommends what's sometimes called "cocooning."

"It requires all the people around the child need to be vaccinated. It's call herd immunity or some people call it cocooning, so the grandparents should get vaccines, parents should get vaccines and all the siblings should get vaccines," said Breen.

With school in session, Dr. Teri Stevenson, MD with Mayo Clinic Health System said parents need to keep their child's vaccines in check. Flu shots are typically recommended around October as flu season goes from December from April. It takes around 3 weeks for the flu shot to kick in with immunity.

"Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis booster, polio booster, a chicken pox booster and MMR, measles mumps and rubella (are recommended) for kindergarten," said Stevenson.

For sixth graders going onto middle schools, there's the TDaP along with some newly recommended shots including the meningitis and HPV vaccines to prevent certain types of cancer.

"HPV vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted virus and it's recommended for all young men and women starting at anywhere after age nine," said Stevenson. She said the HPV shot is one parents sometimes decide to hold off on until a little bit later.

She said new research shows getting the vaccine at a younger age proves better immunity and better response.

For students going into college, Stevenson said another meningitis shot is recommended.

She said there have been several outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the last five to ten years including measles, mumps and pertussis.

Breen said if you take your child to get vaccinations and they're afraid, the most important thing is to be truthful with them.

"They're going to have a shot and that it may pinch a little bit and cause a little discomfort but it will be short," said Breen. "If you bring a favorite book or a favorite toy or a blanket, they also recommend that the child be held by the parents during the vaccine to comfort them, and sometimes a little Tylenol before or after the vaccination will be helpful."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers resources including the 2014 recommended immunizations for children and even tis on how to hold your child during vaccinations (see links).

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