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November 19, 2019

Skipping vaccines isn’t worth the risk: A "Q&A" with Christopher George, MD

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Christopher George, MD

Christopher George, MD

Failure to vaccinate has been cited among reasons that diseases such as measles and mumps are making a comeback. In fact, from January to the beginning of September, 1,241 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 31 states, the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. In Pennsylvania, 14 cases were reported from January through early September. 

With more than 170 patient care locations and approximately 1,500 employed physicians throughout central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, WellSpan Health is here to help you and your family receive the care you need to stay healthy. Here, Christopher George, MD, of WellSpan Family Medicine answers some of the common questions about vaccinations.

QUESTION. Why are vaccines important? 
ANSWER. Vaccines protect us and our children against potentially dangerous infections. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recognizes that immunizations have had one of the top three largest impacts on public health in the 20th century. When immunizations are administered according to schedule, not only is that child protected, but pool immunity develops, meaning that if the majority of people are immunized, the population in general is protected from that infection.

QUESTION. At what age should children receive their first vaccines?
ANSWER. Immunizations begin at birth. The hepatitis B shot is given on day one of life while the infant is in the hospital. A booster for hepatitis B is given at 1 month of age. At 2 months, the child should receive vaccinations against organisms that could cause meningitis, pneumonia, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and gastroenteritis. Boosters for these are given as the baby grows. At 1 year the child is immunized against varicella (chickenpox), measles, mumps and rubella. An annual flu shot is also recommended once a child reaches 6 months of age. WellSpan endorses the schedule for boosters recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices & Prevention/CDC. Additionally, adolescents/preteens should be immunized against HPV (this is to prevent cervical cancer in girls and penile cancer in boys) and receive additional shots against meningitis.

QUESTION. Are there immunizations that are recommended for adults?
ANSWER. Influenza, in combination with pneumonia, is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, so an annual flu shot is important for adults of any age. A shingles shot is recommended for adults ages 50 and older. Adults should get a tetanus combined with pertussis at least once and a tetanus booster every 10 years. Your health care provider can recommend any additional vaccines you may need including pneumonia and hepatitis A or B.

QUESTION. Aren’t immunizations live viruses that can make you sick? 
ANSWER. For the most part, this is not true. Most immunizations do not contain live viruses. The exceptions are measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella. For the general population these are very safe. The intranasal flu mist also contains a live virus, but the injectable influenza immunization does not.

QUESTION. Why do people who get vaccinated against the flu get the flu anyway?
 ANSWER. The flu is a potentially dangerous respiratory infection that can lead to hospitalization, pneumonia, sepsis and even death. The flu virus is a seasonal infection that typically is present in the U.S. from December through March. Each year we usually see different strains. That’s why it’s extremely important to get vaccinated every fall.

QUESTION. Is there any credence to the claim that childhood immunizations cause or contribute to autism?
ANSWER. There has been an extensive amount of research in this area that has disproven any link between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorder. The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all have official statements that refute any link as well.


Need a doctor?
WellSpan’s extensive physician network offers access to primary care and specialty practices close to where you live, work and play. To find a primary care physician for you or a member of your family, visit WellSpan.org/PCP or call (800) 540-5905.


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