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Aiming Focus on Vaccines: May 21, 2014

The ultimate decisions may lay with parents, but many look to their pediatrician for help sorting through the sea of information on immunizations.

“We do have a lot more conversation with parents about why the shots are important and which shots they should get when,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatrician Dr. Denise Drago.

At a time when many parents are uncertain of the benefits, the CDC released a massive report, aimed at showing results to people who skip or delay their children’s shots.

“There’s been a lot of increase in vaccine preventable illnesses that we had seen in the past. That we had decreased the number through vaccines,” says Dr. Drago. “So we see a lot more chickenpox then we used to, people aren’t doing the chickenpox vaccine.  A lot of people are not doing the measles vaccine.”

Before the measles vaccine became available in 1963, the virus infected about a half-million Americans a year; causing 500 deaths. In recent years the number of cases dropped to around 60 nationwide. In the first three months of 2014, 129 cases are confirmed.

Mumps and whooping cough are also reemerging in a series of outbreaks. With fewer people getting their children vaccinated- there is a loss of the ‘herd immunity’ meaning more opportunities to get sick. The most underutilized shot may be one of the newest - the HPV vaccine.

“We’re seeing more and more HPV related tumors every year,” says Dr. Phillip Andrews, an otolaryngologist on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

HPV has replaced tobacco as the top cause of oral cancers. The vaccine which targets the virus had a rocky start, first approved only for young girls.

“We should have been, from the outset, vaccinating both sexes. So we strongly advocate that all children be vaccinated for HPV because this is basically a preventable disease,” says Dr. Andrews.

It comes back to prevention: the hundreds of millions of children over several decades living healthy lives- inoculated against preventable disease