Back to school time: What you need to know about vaccines

Make sure kids are up-to-date on their vaccines before heading back to school.

Texas schools require students to have a number of immunizations, depending on their grade-level. In fact, most schools require proof of vaccination before children can be enrolled.

Doctors at the Austin Diagnostic Clinic follow guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends vaccinations to prevent serious diseases and slow or stop disease outbreaks.

Measles on the rise

One of the required vaccines — Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) — protects against measles, which has caused more outbreaks in recent years. The AAP reports there were 222 cases of measles in 2011, the highest number in 15 years. Most of those cases happened in people under the age of 20 and were linked to unimmunized travelers who picked up the disease while traveling abroad.

Measles is highly contagious, and worldwide, it remains the leading cause of death among young children.

“The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling), severe diarrhea, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia,” said Dr. Vanessa Chiapetta, ADC pediatrician. “As high as 10 percent of measles cases result in death among populations with high levels of malnutrition and lack of adequate health care.”

Chiapetta says an estimated 535,000 children died of measles in 2000. There has been a global effort to immunize all children, and measles deaths dropped 74 percent in 2010.

“Overwhelming evidence demonstrates the benefit of providing universal access to measles and rubella vaccines,” Dr. Chiapetta said.

Vaccine safety

Texas law requires two doses of MMR for students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Texas does allow parents to request a conscience exemption for vaccines, but pediatricians and health officials say the risks from receiving a vaccine are minimal, especially when compared with the disease itself.

“Most people who get the MMR vaccine do not have any problems with it. One out of six get a mild fever, one in 20 get a mild rash. More than 95 percent have no reactions to the vaccine.” Dr. Chiapetta said. “Why put your loved ones at risk when a simple effective and safe vaccine is available?”

You can learn about vaccine safety from the AAP. Because some of the information on the internet is incorrect or out-of-date, the organization also has resources for how to evaluate online health information.

Diseases prevented by recommended vaccines