With children starting school earlier than usual this year, UCLA pediatrician Dr. Piper Calasanti reminds families to schedule a visit to their healthcare provider for necessary vaccinations, especially for diseases such as whooping cough and measles, which have increased in prevalence in California over the past year.
“There are several vaccinations children are required to have before they can go back to school and others the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend,” said Dr. Calasanti, whose practice is based in Santa Monica. “All of them are important for protecting children – and those around them – against serious and often life-threatening diseases.”
Children entering kindergarten are required to be vaccinated for polio, chicken pox, measles/mumps/rubella, hepatitis B, and tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (whooping cough), she noted. Students entering seventh grade are required to have a booster shot of the Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) vaccine.
“We are not only seeing more whooping cough in recent years, but also more severe cases, which have resulted in several deaths,” said Dr. Calasanti. “Vaccines are safe and effective. Since they are recommended by the CDC, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should be comfortable with their children receiving them.”
The CDC recommends middle- and high-school-age children receive a vaccination to prevent catching meningococcal meningitis, a disease that’s more common among older children. In addition, to prevent certain types of cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended by the CDC for preteen boys and girls.
Dr. Calasanti advises parents to check their children’s vaccine record with their healthcare provider every year until their late teens as some vaccines require occasional boosters to remain effective. Additionally, all children older than six months should receive an annual flu shot for additional protection, she says. This year’s flu vaccine will be available in the fall.
Schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily transmit illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs and the density of school populations.
“When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for diseases and can spread serious illness to others in their classrooms and community,“ said Dr. Calasanti.
“We’re all invested in keeping our children healthy to ensure they can make the most of each and every school day,” she continued. “Vaccines are one of the easiest and most important ways we can protect them against disease.”
Dr. Calasanti practices at UCLA Pediatric Specialists, 1131 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica. To schedule an appointment, call 310.825.0867. For more information about vaccine requirements, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules.