PARENTS Report: Vaccine Update 2007

MMR to Pneumococcal

Measles, Mumps, Rubella

Although these once-common diseases are usually not very serious, measles and mumps can lead to meningitis, and mumps can cause deafness. Your child gets two doses of the MMR vaccine: one at 12 to 15 months, and another between ages 4 and 6. Although some past research suggested that the MMR shot might increase the risk of autism, large studies have now debunked this myth.

In the news: This year's unexpected mumps outbreak shocked health officials: The disease hadn't been on their radar in decades. Cases started at an Iowa college and marched across the Midwest. Because the second MMR dose wasn't recommended until 1989, many of the young adults who got mumps probably never had a second shot, says Dr. Halsey. The CDC estimates that one MMR dose is 80 percent effective against mumps; the second dose ups effectiveness to 90 percent. Double-check that you've had two doses yourself.

Varicella

The chickenpox vaccine celebrated its 10th anniversary in the U.S. last year. Its original purpose wasn't necessarily to eradicate the itchy illness, but to diminish the incidence and severity; 10 percent of children vaccinated between 12 and 18 months could still contract pox, though these cases are almost always mild. Assuming that getting chickenpox isn't such a big deal, some parents decline the vaccine, and even bring their kids to "pox parties" to intentionally expose them to an infected child. Experts strongly discourage this. "Chickenpox is not always a mild disease," says Dr. Fisher. "It can lead to pneumonia and inflammation of the brain." In fact, most states require that children entering childcare or school be vaccinated or have a documented history of chickenpox.

In the news: To prevent "breakthrough" cases, the CDC recently recommended a second dose for children between ages 4 and 6. Fortunately, it won't necessarily require an additional needle stick. There's a new vaccine called MMRV, a combination of MMR and varicella, which is given on the MMR schedule.

Meningococcal

Meningococcal disease, a cause of bacterial meningitis, is one of the scariest childhood illnesses. Within hours, a child can die, become deaf, or lose a limb from gangrene. The newer form of the vaccine, known as MCV4, protects against four of the most common bacterial strains and provides longer-lasting protection than the vaccine it replaced, says Dr. Halsey. The CDC now recommends it for all kids between ages 11 and 12.

Pneumococcal

Pneumococcal disease, most dangerous before age 2, can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and bacterial meningitis. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months, and protects against 80 percent of the strains that cause pneumococcal meningitis. As with Hib, the vaccine has been remarkably successful in curbing the disease, notes Dr. Halsey.

Did you know? The vaccine is crucial because pneumococcal bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment