The nation’s top group of doctors released its 2011 vaccine schedule Tuesday, and among the changes are new recommendations for shots to protect kids against whooping cough, Hepatitis B and meningococcal disease, which can cause potentially fatal meningitis.
The changes aren’t sweeping, but for most kids, they will mean a few more shots over the course of several years, says Dr. Dilek Bishku, a pediatrician at Chicago’s La Rabida Children’s Hospital. For example, there is an extra recommendation of a tetanus booster for kids ages 7 to 10 who aren’t already up to date.
It also means answering more questions from parents, Bishku says.
“Sometimes they ask why the schedule is changed, sometimes they are worried about siblings who had not received their immunizations according to the new guidelines, wondering what that means,” Bishku says.
The new recommendations are responses to a few broad changes in disease patterns among kids, according to a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A recentresurgence in whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in several states suggested the traditional series of vaccines weren’t enough. In California last year, more than 8,300 people became sick and 10 infants died of the disease, and Dr. Carissa Lee Holmes, a pediatrician in Arlington Heights, says there has been an uptick in cases in the northern and northwestern suburbs this year.
Infants do not receive their first pertussis vaccine until 2 months and are not completely protected until age 4, when they receive the last of five shots.
“The main thing is that there is a waning immunity (against whooping cough) as you get older, and teenagers and adults can easily pass that infection on to young infants,” she says.
“Adapting our children’s protection to the new world they will live in is well worth the extra effort,”Bishkusays.
For more information on the new guidelines, visit the AAP’s immunization website.