Wednesday we told you of a mumps case at the University of Texas that had caused students to get a letter that they might have been exposed.
If I tell you to vaccinate your children, would you listen to me? Probably not. Will you listen to an infectious disease specialist? I hope so.
Dr. Don Murphey has been at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas for two years and before that at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth for 22 years. That’s almost a quarter of a century of dealing with infections disease in Texas, many of which are things for which we vaccinate.
This year, he’s seen mumps cases, like the ones at UT, come into Dell Children’s. He says so far this year, Texas has had more than 200 cases. “Before 2000, we had almost no cases of mumps,” he says.
He’s also seen in recent years more measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal meningitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis.
What’s going on here?
We’re seeing what doctors have been seeing in Europe, especially France and the United Kingdom, but on a smaller scale, Murphey says. The rates of mumps and measles in particular skyrocketed there after “The Lancet” medical journal published a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that it later had to retract. Wakefield lost his license because of it.
Wakefield’s study found a link to autism from the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Multiple studies including those funded by plantiff’s lawyers who were looking for a link found no-such link. What happens, though, is that the MMR vaccine is given around the same time — about 12 months to 15 months — as when many kids with autism start to show signs.
Yet, the misinformation and the fear of vaccines persisted. Parents in Europe stopped vaccinating and Europe no longer had the “herd” immunity that happens when at least 90 percent to 95 percent of the population are vaccinated against a disease.
Diseases like measles and mumps that we just didn’t see are happening again. We rely on the herd immunity to protect us. You see these vaccines are not fool-proof, and they have waning effects. In the case of the students at UT, even if college students have been vaccinated as children but are exposed to mumps now, they might not be fully immune and get it.
Murphey says the mumps vaccine we use “is a very safe one. It doesn’t cause any meningitis,” he says. “It works great for herd immunity, but it doesn’t work if you’re exposed.”
If you do get mumps, it isn’t the worst thing most of the time. You get a fever, you feel bad for a few days, he says. Boys can also get an infection in their testes and girls in their ovaries. What is scary is that mumps can lead to meningitis and deafness.
While mumps is not a terrible disease, we could avoid the whole thing, if people who can get immunized do get immunized, he says.
For parents who are considering or are using an alternative vaccine schedule and delaying vaccines, Murphey encourages them not to. “Alternative schedules have never been shown to be any safer,” he says.
By delaying vaccines, you’re not protecting the most vulnerable population, who can get the most sick from these disease — infants and small children. They end up in the hospital or worse.
“You want to start protecting those kids as soon as possible,” Murphey says.
Vaccinate, please. And while you’re vaccinating, don’t forget that kids entering seventh grade have a new set of vaccines. The school will want to see shot records before they let kids come to class.
While, HPV vaccine isn’t required for school yet, please put that on your list. Murphey wants more people to be talking about it. “It’s a wonderful thing,” he says. Ten to 20 years from know, we’ll start to see the rates of cervical cancer plummet, he says. While you might not want to think of your 10 or 11 year old having sex, you don’t want them having cervical cancer or giving someone cervical cancer, right?
You’ll also have a new set of vaccines in the teen years usually at the 16 and 17 check up, and more could be considered as infectious disease specialists look at the waning effects of vaccines.
Find the 2017-2018 school vaccination schedule below:
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.
Polio: four or three doses
Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses
Hepatitis B: three doses
Varicella: two doses
Hepatitus A: two doses
Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years
Meningococcal: one dose
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:
- HPV vaccine
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. All boys and girls should finish the HPV vaccine series before they turn 13 years old.
- Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal.
- Tdap vaccine
Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
- Flu vaccine
Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine recommends these vaccines at the 16-year check up:
- A second dose of meningococcal ACWY
- meningococcal B vaccine.