Protecting our children: it's on all of our minds right now, especially, and it will always be. That is why I decided to write my final blog for 2012 on one area in medicine where we can really provide protection: vaccination against disease. In fact, vaccination is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.
Fast forward: a smallpox-free world. Smallpox vaccine was given to generations of children around the world, completely eliminating the disease by 1980. So we no longer need to vaccinate our children against smallpox … but smallpox is the only exception.
Vaccines are literally the gifts that keep on giving. When we vaccinate our kids, we protect them now ... and may help to protect future generations. If we keep vaccinating against childhood diseases, maybe our grandchildren will need fewer vaccines.
Here's the vaccine gift list for your 11- or 12-year-olds:
On the other hand, HPV vaccination rates are still much lower than those for any other vaccine. About 53% of teen girls received at least the first dose, but only 35% received the entire three-dose series. Only 8% of teen boys got their first dose, and only 1% completed the series.
Why the low HPV vaccine rates? When asked why their teens did not have the HPV vaccine, parents said they didn't know about it or didn't think their teens really needed it. Not so.
So let's roll up our sleeves. We still have a long way to go to protect our teens from HPV—and history has shown us that we can't let their other vaccinations slide, either. If your child has missed Tdap, Gardasil, or the meningococcal vaccine, please ask your doctor about them!
It just takes a few seconds. In the eloquent words of my 15-year-old son: "I'd rather have a needle in my arm for a few brutal seconds than experience one awful week of feeling like crap." (Or worse.)