Although California law requires children to be immunized before entering school, an Anaheim pediatrician is warning parents that delaying immunizations can leave their children susceptible to serious diseases during their early years.
"Widespread immunizations have virtually wiped out such childhood diseases as polio," said Dr. Minoru Yoshida, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Anaheim. "As a result many parents have become complacent and have failed to have their children immunized."
Consequently, Yoshida said, the immunization level among many children has dropped, raising the prospect of the return of almost-forgotten childhood infectious diseases.
Two out of three California children are not up to date with their immunizations by their second birthday, according to the California Department of Health Services. Yoshida, who warned that "all parents should make sure that their children are properly protected," said that polio, tetanus, diphtheria and measles are the four diseases for which immunizations are most essential. Infants, he added, should also be immunized against pertussis (whooping cough).
In Oklahoma, an outbreak of whooping cough during 1983-84 was suspected by some epidemiologists to be the result of the fact that fewer than 35% of children had current immunizations.
Polio, the dreaded disease of a generation ago, has been virtually eliminated through widespread immunization programs, noted Yoshida, who advises a basic series of oral vaccine doses at ages 2, 4 and 6 months and boosters at 18 months of age and when entering school.
Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccinations (DPT) are generally given at 2, 4 and 6 months, 18 through 24 months of age, and 4 through 6 years of age. Yoshida advised measles vaccine at 15 months of age and noted that while mild reactions such as fever and rash sometimes occur, serious reactions are rare.
Yoshida said that some physicians also recommend rubella and mumps vaccine. In most cases, he said, measles-rubella-mumps vaccine are given as a single injection at 15 months of age.
A new vaccine, Hemophilus influenza Type B, is now recommended for children 2 to 6 years of age against diseases caused by Hemophilus influenza B (meningitis and other septic diseases), Yoshida said. For children in day-care centers, it is recommended from 18 months of age. Since the vaccine does not take well at a younger age, it is not recommended for children under 18 months, he said. Reactions are usually mild with local tenderness and mild fever.