WISE — The school year will be ending before you know it, but a Virginia Department of Health official says now is a good time for parents to think about getting their children’s vaccinations up to date.
Dr. Noelle Bissell, interim director for the three westernmost Virginia health districts including the LENOWISCO Health District, said the Virginia Department of Health has a schedule of required vaccinations for school-aged children to help immunize them against a range of diseases. Those immunizations apply to children attending public or private elementary, middle or secondary schools; childcare centers; nursery schools; family daycare homes; or developmental centers.
According to the VDH, Bissell said, vaccinations must be given according to the federal Centers for Disease Control’s recommended schedules and age range. Those immunizations include: polio; diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus — DPT vaccine; hepatitis A and B; measles, mumps and rubella — MMR vaccine; meningitis; pneumococcal — PCV; haemophilus influenzae Type b; rotavirus; and chickenpox.
“Vaccines save lives and have saved millions of lives over the years,” said Bissell. “These are tried and true vaccines that have been around a long time and, because of them, we don’t see diseases like polio and rubella, and that’s a good thing.”
Bissell said vaccinations helped eradicate smallpox in the U.S. by the 1970s, basically eliminating the need for that vaccine. The polio vaccine, while making widespread polio outbreaks a thing of the past, is still a good idea because of rare infections, she added.
One vaccine, for the human papillomavirus, can be refused at the discretion of a parent or guardian, but Bissell said it is safe and effective in preventing three types of cancer.
“We have very good data on the HPV vaccine,” said Bissell. “It’s the only vaccine we have that prevents cancer: cervical, male genital and anal-rectal cancers.”
Bissell said complaints about the HPV vaccine encouraging underage sex are countered by data.
“It has been found that children who receive the HPV vaccine tend to have sex later in life than those who have not had the vaccine,” Bissell said.
Bissell said parents with concerns about vaccines should get expert advice.
“People used to talk to their doctors, but now people often just see something on social media,” Bissell said. “Ask your doctor or someone trusted if you have questions.”