PARENTS Report: Vaccine Update 2007

Flu Shots to HPV

Influenza

Updated annually to include the virus strains that are expected to circulate, the flu vaccine is the only one your child will need every year. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated in October or November (though vaccines are still effective as late as January); first-timers age 8 and under need two doses four to six weeks apart. The standard flu shot contains killed flu viruses and is approved for use in kids 6 months and older. Since 2003, healthy children over age 5 have been able to get a nasal spray vaccine instead, which contains a live, weakened virus.

In the news: As of this year, the CDC recommends a flu vaccine for all children between 6 months and 5 years, as well as for their immediate family members. (Kids over 5 who have asthma or other chronic conditions should also get one.) More vaccines will be produced this year than ever before, so there's little chance of a shortage. A recently reported study found that babies whose mothers got a flu shot during the last trimester of pregnancy appeared to be protected from infection during their first six months.

Stay tuned: Clinical trials published earlier this year (now being evaluated by the FDA) found that the nasal vaccine was effective in children as young as 6 months. If approved, this could mean one fewer needle for your little one next flu season.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A, a liver disease like Hepatitis B, doesn't become chronic, but it can take about a month for your child to recover. Your child will get two doses between 12 months and 2 years, with at least six months between doses.

In the news: In the past, the vaccine was only given to kids in 11 high-risk states, where the disease occurred at roughly twice the national average. But this spring, the CDC began recommending it for all children. "The vaccine worked so well that the incidence of Hepatitis A in those states was no longer higher than in the rest of the country," Dr. Fisher says. Since it didn't make sense to stop vaccinating, the CDC chose to recommend vaccination nationwide.

Rotavirus

This very common virus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. Because babies often need to be hospitalized for rehydration, rotavirus has been a priority in the vaccine-development pipeline. A previous vaccine was pulled off the market in 1999 because it increased the risk of intussusception, a rare intestinal blockage.

In the news: This new vaccine was just added to the immunization schedule for 2007. Extensive testing has shown that it doesn't increase the risk of intussusception. "It has a dual role," says Dr. Halsey. "It will prevent most cases of rotavirus, and it will also lessen the severity of the illness in children who still get sick." A bonus: It's a liquid vaccine given by mouth. Timing for this three-dose vaccine will be critical, at least for now. Ideally, a baby should get it at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months, but he needs to have all three doses by 32 weeks.

HPV

The CDC estimates that more than 20 million people in the United States are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease. It is the leading cause of cervical cancer, which kills 3,700 women each year. The new three-dose vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11 to 12.

In the news: Because HPV is an STD, the vaccine has sparked controversy. However, clinical trials found that it was 100 percent effective in protecting against the two strains of HPV responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers. Someday, boys may even get it too. "The goal is to immunize girls before they're sexually active and have been exposed to HPV," says Dr. Bernstein, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases. The vaccine series costs $360, but insurance companies will probably cover it.

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