Childhood Vaccinations: A Prickly Issue
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The consequences must be part of the discussion, says Kainkaryam. “We have to bring that out up-front.”
Meanwhile, the DPH is ramping up its efforts to eventually reach 100-percent compliance. The Connecticut Vaccine Program has played an important role in keeping the state’s vaccination numbers up thus far. The program provides vaccines to doctors for enrolled children up to age 18. Expanded in January of this year, the program covers 14 of the 16 required vaccines—at no cost. “Our goal has always been to provide all vaccines and all doses,” says Kudish. “We hope to get there soon.”
Current Vaccine Requirements
The list of immunization requirements for children enrolled in Connecticut public schools is long and complex. The following vaccinations are required of children entering kindergarten:
- DTaP. Prevents diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. At least four doses, with the last given on or after the 4th birthday.
- Polio. At least three doses, the last given on or after the 4th birthday.
- MMR. Prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Two doses separated by at least 28 days, with first dose given on or after the 1st birthday.
- Hepatitis B. Three doses, with the last dose on or after 24 weeks of age.
- Varicella. Prevents chicken pox. Two doses separated by at least three months, with the first dose on or after the 1st birthday; or upon verification of disease.
- Hib. Prevents pneumonia, epiglottitis and bacterial meningitis. One dose on or around the 1st birthday.
- Pneumococcal. One dose on or after the 1st birthday for children under five.
- Hepatitis A. Two doses given six months apart, with the first dose on or after the 1st birthday.
For details on all immunizations and doses required through grade 12, visit ct.gov/dph.
The Autism Scare
Many who fear serious side effects of the MMR vaccine point to the work of Andrew Wakefield, a former British surgeon. In 1998, he published a study linking autism to the vaccination that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. The news started a furor among parents and prompted a movement against vaccinations both here and abroad. Following the study’s publication, rates of children going unvaccinated doubled in Connecticut and New York. In New Jersey, they rose by 800 percent.
Wakefield’s work was later roundly discredited by the medical community in the U.K., the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and researchers around the world. The British Medical Journal branded the study an “elaborate fraud,” but the damage had been done. To this day, many believe the autism link is credible. The scare — and its debunking— are the subject of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin (Simon & Schuster).
We’ve Come a Long Way and Yet . . .
It was recently reported that the number of teenage girls in the U.S. who have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) has lagged since 2012. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. Just over half of all girls aged 13 to 17 have received one dose of HPV vaccine and only a third have received all three recommended doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since the vaccine was introduced in 2005, legislators in 41 states and the District of Columbia have proposed legislation to require, fund or educate the public about the HPV vaccine; Connecticut is not among them. Twenty-two states have enacted such legislation.