It's important to remember that not only infants and young children need vaccines. Older children (and even adults) continue to need vaccinations, and some vaccines are not given until a child is in his or her 'tween and teen years.
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a good example of this. We had an epidemic of whooping cough recently, due in part to the fact that adults had not been re-immunized against the disease.
Adults who get pertussis often have only a prolonged cough; they don't get as sick, as infants and young children do. But, they are contagious during this lengthy "cough illness," and a baby who's not yet protected can get seriously ill and even die from whooping cough.
Other vaccines are given during the 'tween/teen years to prevent a type of meningitis that clusters in adolescents and young adults. Meningococcal meningitis has two peaks, one in children under the age of 1 and again in the teen years and early twenties. The first dose of this vaccine is given at age 11, followed by a booster at age 16. Make sure your child gets that second dose before leaving for college and the close living quarters of dorms and apartments.
The HPV vaccine is given to 'tweens to prevent cervical and penile cancers, as well as genital warts. The vaccine is given prior to any exposure to the HPV, as it provides protection, but does not treat HPV infections. Once again, the patient needs a series of three vaccines to prevent four specific types of HPV, and scientists are hard at work to develop an even better vaccine that will cover more serotypes of HPV. This is really the first "anti-cancer" vaccine, and our children will hopefully see more of these vaccines in their and their children's lifetimes.
Check your child's immunization record, and as we approach "summer check-up season," take your child to see a pediatrician. Don't miss an opportunity to make sure your child is fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. This is just as important as wearing helmets and seat belts!
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com.)