In the last few years, the media have covered more and more stories about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. and around the world. To best protect your children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) issues an annual immunization schedule with updates on which vaccinations are needed at what ages.
ACIP, a group of leading public health and medical experts, reviews immunization research throughout the year to develop recommendations for the U.S. immunization schedule. Read on to learn what’s new in 2019.
Although to some it may seem like a stomach illness marked by vomiting and fatigue, the flu is actually a respiratory illness. The CDC has provided the following information on the influenza virus to help you know what to look for and how to respond.
1. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and, sometimes, the lungs.
2. It causes mild-to-severe illness and has, in some cases, led to death.
3. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, chills, body aches and headaches.
4. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting an annual flu vaccine.
When is flu season? And what’s the best time to get the flu shot each year? According to the CDC, flu season occurs in the fall and winter with peaks between December and February. However, your child is not safe from the virus until much later, as the influenza virus has been known to be active as late as May.
The best way to help prevent the flu and its debilitating symptoms is to get the flu vaccine each year. In many places, the vaccine is available as early as September. It’s best to get vaccinated by late October to get the most protection before the virus starts to spread in your community. However, the vaccine is still beneficial if you are immunized later in the flu season (January or thereafter).
The 2018-2019 influenza recommendation was updated to indicate that a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) can be used, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has indicated it does not have a preference of shot or nasal vaccine for children during the 2019-2020 influenza season. The LAIV is administered with a single spray in the nose. It is a weakened form of the live influenza virus that is breathed in with a single sniff. There are unique circumstances under which the LAIV should not be used — for example, with children under age 2, children 2-4 with asthma and people with a history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. Your pediatric healthcare provider will help you determine if the LAIV is a safe option for your child.
During the 2017-2018 flu season, hospitalization rates were the highest ever recorded, and 185 children died from the flu. Read more at cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm. Be sure to help protect your children by getting them vaccinated. For more information on the flu, visit napnap.org/do-you-know-flu.
In addition to the annual influenza vaccine, the ACIP has updated other immunization recommendations in the 2019 schedule. These recommendations are designated for children and adolescents ages 18 years or younger and include the hepatitis A (Hep A), hepatitis B (Hep B), tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) and the inactivated poliovirus (IPV) vaccine.
Almost everyone loves experiencing new sights and sounds when traveling to foreign places, but with foreign travel also come germs, viruses and bacteria that are foreign to your little ones. The ACIP updated the international travel recommendations for the Hep A vaccination. Travelers ages 6-11 months and unvaccinated travelers 12 months or older should receive the Hep A vaccine. Also, the update includes Hep A vaccine recommendations for homeless kids.
Hep A is a disease of the liver. According to the CDC, it is transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route. When contracted, many children six years of age or younger do not present with any symptoms or display an unrecognized infection, so it’s critical that your kids are protected before you jump on a plane to an exotic locale.
Hep B is also a disease of the liver. It is transmitted when the blood or other bodily fluid of an infected person comes in contact with a non-infected person. It can cause serious health problems over time, including liver cancer and liver failure.
The recommended routine Hep B vaccine series includes three doses and begins at birth. The ACIP updated recommendations for children 18 years or older who are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. These children can now receive the combination Hep A-Hep B vaccine. In addition, those 18 years or older who have risk factors for Hep B, such as working in the healthcare field, can now receive a two-dose series for the Hep B vaccine in place of the three-vaccine series.
The Tdap vaccine helps protect against three potentially devastating diseases. Tetanus (lockjaw) causes painful muscle tightening. Diphtheria causes a thick coating to form in the back of the throat, making it difficult or impossible to breathe. Pertussis (whooping cough) causes severe coughing spells that can lead to difficulty breathing, vomiting and disturbed sleep.
The vaccinations for these three diseases are combined into one single shot called the DTap (diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis) for children younger than 7 years old, or the Tdap (tetanus and diphtheria and acellular pertussis) for children 7 years of age or older. Traditionally, Tdap is administered at 11-12 years old. The 2019 immunization update indicates that those who received the DTaP, inadvertently or through a catch-up schedule at 7-10 years of age, should still receive a dose of Tdap at 11-12 years of age.
Many vaccines are combined to reduce the number of shots your child must receive. Inactivated Polio Vaccine or IPV is often combined with other vaccines your child needs. The fourth dose of IPV should be given on or after your child’s fourth birthday. The 2019 updated recommendation for children who receive the recommended four doses of IPV through combination vaccines prior to turning 4 years old, is to receive one more dose after his or her fourth birthday and six months later the last IPV dose.
Rising rates of some immunization-preventable diseases has increased the urgency and importance of ensuring your child is properly vaccinated. Understanding the ACIP recommendations for immunizations is a great way to be a proactive advocate for your child’s healthcare. Be sure to view the CDC’s full immunization recommendations and schedule by visiting napnap.org/vaccinations-children-and-teens or cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child-easyread.html.
Lacey Eden, MS, FNP-C, an Assistant Teaching Professor, teaches in the graduate program in the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University. She is a primary care provider in a busy clinic in Lehi, UT.
Meg McDowell, RN-S, is a research assistant and busy undergraduate nursing student at Brigham Young University.