CINCINNATI—If you haven’t taken your child in for up-to-date immunizations, hurry. Now is the time to visit your family physician. Some schools have started in the Tristate, but many others will start during the next week or so.
The state of Ohio mandates vaccinations for children to start kindergarten, enter seventh grade and to complete their senior year of high school, says Oded Zmora, assistant professor at the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, and UC Health physician.
Also, many college students may need evidence of their immunity updated as well. The first day of classes at the University of Cincinnati begins for undergraduates on Aug. 22.
"A vaccine stimulates the production of antibodies and provides immunity against one or several diseases and commonly helps protect children against a range of ailments,” explains Zmora. "Children entering kindergarten need to receive the MMR vaccine, which helps prevent measles, mumps and rubella, and they should receive varicella, DTaP and polio vaccinations.”
Varicella helps prevent against chickenpox and shingles, while DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough. Before seventh-graders enter school, a Tdap vaccination is important because immunity to pertussis can wane by adolescence, says Zmora. There is a new mandate by the state of Ohio requiring all pupils entering the seventh and 12th grades to receive the meningococcal vaccination.
Meningococcal infection is the major cause of bacterial meningitis and is spread from person to person through close contact. For high school seniors, the meningococcal vaccine can offer protection if after graduation they go on to live in college dorms or join the military and live in close quarters and are at risk of meningitis, says Zmora.
Choosing to forgo vaccinations may not be a wise move. It’s led to sporadic outbreaks of preventable diseases in the past. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, the nation experienced a large, multi-state outbreak of measles linked to an amusement park, reportedly Disneyland, in California in 2015. The CDC reported the outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles and then visited the amusement park while infectious.
Physicians have long understood that there is a minimum number of people in a community who need to be immunized in order to guard against preventable diseases like measles. This is called "herd immunity,” and the scenario related to the Disneyland outbreak occurred because a group of children weren’t immunized, says Zmora.
The regular schedule of immunizations for children protects against infectious diseases, explains Zmora. Some parents worry about a connection between vaccines and autism, though a discredited study that once made that claim was retracted by the British medical journal Lancet. Immunizations are among the greatest successes of modern medicine.
"College students may also consider a vaccination to protect against hepatitis B, when the blood, semen or other body fluids infected with the virus enter the body of a person who is not infected,” says Zmora. "It can be spread through sex with an infected partner, sharing needles or syringes or other items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person. Untreated hepatitis B can cause liver damage.”
If you have questions about vaccinations for your grade-schooler, teenager or college freshman, contact your family doctor right away. The clock is ticking, and vaccinations are quick, easy and effective ways to prevent disease, says Zmora.