Pediatricians Make Updates To Vaccine Recommendations

by Christina Elston

News from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights a range of vaccine-related issues.

First up: Vaccinating kids against chicken pox apparently also protects babies too young to receive the vaccine. Tracking cases of varicella infection in infants from 1995 (the year chicken pox vaccinations began) to 2008, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that cases in children under age 1 declined by more than 89% during that time period, most likely because vaccinations among older children meant babies were exposed to fewer cases of chicken pox. The disease is still around, so study authors urge parents to vaccinate their children.

Next: Babies getting vaccinations tend to be uncomfortable and run mild fevers, and parents might wonder whether a dose of acetaminophen (the aspirin-free pain reliever found in Tylenol) might help Baby sleep. Sleep is important to help the body’s immune system respond to the vaccine, but because some doctors worry the medication might dampen the immune response by suppressing fever, recommendations vary. A new study found that acetaminophen didn’t increase babies’ sleep time, but also didn’t prevent the needed increase in body temperature. What did help babies sleep? Getting their shots after 1:30 p.m., though more study is needed to confirm this result.

Finally: 16-year-olds need a booster dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to protect them against meningitis, a dangerous infection of the tissue surrounding the brain. Adolescents are supposed to be vaccinated against meningitis around age 11 or 12. The added the booster at age 16 to the 2011 schedule for extra protection when teens are most vulnerable.

All three issues are covered in the December issue of Pediatrics.