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Kids and adults need vaccinations, say experts at Loyola University Health System.
A new school year means more than new clothes, new books and a new grade level it also means new shots for millions of public school children. "Many parents get in the rhythm of having their child vaccinated every few months as infants and even annually as a family for the flu," says Dr. Jorge Parada, director of infection prevention and control at Loyola University Health System. "Getting regular shots for preventive medicine is a good life lesson to learn, right along with the alphabet and arithmetic."
Primary care physicians receive updated recommended immunization charts each year. Many also have the required documentation forms needed to provide with schools. Public schools are usually required to receive documentation on required vaccinations for each child no later than one month after school starts.
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"Parents need to remember that almost every one of the required or recommended vaccines come as a series of shots, to assure that the child builds sufficient immunity to the various infections. Even the first seasons flu shot for a child less than nine years old requires two doses, and then a single yearly dose," says Dr. Andrew Bonwit, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at Loyola University Health System. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella are all available as a series. "If a child falls behind the standard schedule, his or her pediatrician can plan a catch-up schedule based on standard recommendations," Bonwit adds.
"The flu, meningitis and HPV are important vaccinations for college-age adults," says Parada. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is recommended for both women and men, ages 26 years or younger, to prevent genital warts and cancer. "Awareness has been raised for the HPV for women but it is important to know that there is one brand that can be given to men," he said. The HPV vaccine is given in three doses over six months.
The school calendar can also be a good time for all adults to annually safeguard their health. "Flu shots are available as early as Sept. 1, making it a good time to check the charts at your physicians office," says Parada. "If you smoke, a pneumonia vaccination is recommended and your physician can advise you on shots based on your health, age and lifestyle."
Insurance coverage of recommended vaccinations varies by provider and plan level. "Subsidized or even free vaccinations are available for those who qualify so there is no financial reason to not get vaccines," says Parada. Students may legally opt out of vaccinations if they are allergic, or for religious reasons.
"We see some potentially severe, vaccine-preventable illnesses every year, such as whooping cough (pertussis),"Â adds Bonwit. "Vaccinations protect children from potentially dangerous illnesses and can keep them from needing to be hospitalized."
Vaccines serve two purposes, says Parada. "First, they help to keep you protected from catching an illness; and secondly, they help prevent the illness. Remember that something you dont have, you cant pass along to another. So, be smart, be safe, be vaccinated."