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Updated immunization recommendations for childhood influenza and adolescent meningococcal vaccinations are included in the 2008 Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedules released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
"Although we can now protect more children against more vaccine-preventable diseases than ever before, the immunization schedules can be confusing for parents and physicians," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the NationalCenter for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC.Â "The updates to this year's schedule help clarify our vaccination recommendations and, therefore, should make it easier for parents to protect their children against potentially serious diseases."
The childhood schedule expands the recommendation for the nasal spray influenza vaccine, FluMist, to include children from 2 to 4 years of age who don't have a history of asthma or wheezing.Â The vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the live virus and is sprayed in the nose, had previously been limited to healthy children 5 years of age and older and healthy adults up to age 50.Â
"We know that vaccinating children protects them against flu," said Schuchat. "This recommendation gives parents another choice when vaccinating their children."
The new guidance also addresses vaccination against meningococcal disease.Â Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4) is now recommended for routine vaccination of children 11-12 years of age and of adolescents 13-18 years of age who have not been previously vaccinated and other people at increased risk of meningococcal disease, including college freshmen living in dorms, as well as military recruits.
This recommendation modifies and simplifies the previous recommendation for routine vaccination with MCV4 of children at 11-12 years of age, adolescents before high school entry (approximately 15 years of age), and other people at increased risk.
"Our goal is routine vaccination of all children beginning at age 11 years.Â College freshmen living in dormitories are at increased risk of meningococcal disease and should be vaccinated with MCV4 before college entry, if not previously," said Schuchat.
An estimated 1,400 to 2,800 cases of meningococcal disease occur annually in the United States.Â Meningococcal disease can have severe complications and can be life threatening.Â About 76 percent of cases of meningococcal disease among 11-19 year olds are vaccine-preventable.Â
The new schedule also clarifies and updates recommendations for use of pneumococcal vaccine.Â Healthy children 24 through 59 months of age who are incompletely vaccinated should receive one dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV4).Â Children age two and older with underlying medical conditions should receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV).