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Parents Urged to Discuss Immunizations with Child's Doctor

Doctors want to open a dialogue with parents about children's vaccination decisions as the school year begins. (Wr52351/Flickr)
Doctors want to open a dialogue with parents about children's vaccination decisions as the school year begins. (Wr52351/Flickr)
September 23, 2016

SEATTLE – The school year has started, and the State of Washington is asking that school-age children be up-to-date on their immunizations against such highly-contagious diseases as measles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends a number of vaccinations aside from those required for school, including the seasonal flu vaccine.

John Dunn, assistant medical director for preventative care at Group Health, said he knows that for parents, these decisions can be tough, but they are important.

"We like to have them be a part of a decision-making process," he said. "I, as a provider, don't want to dictate what people are going to do, I want to talk to them about what's going on, I want to let them know about their options, and I want to let them make up their own mind."

He said Group Health is a proponent of immunization, but realizes some parents don't immunize children for religious reasons. Others are worried about potential health problems associated with some vaccines, although those risks are reported to be very small.

The CDC recommends older children also be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Dunn said the HPV vaccine is often misunderstood. In the short term, he said, it only seems to be immunizing against a sexually-transmitted infection, but the vaccine is meant for longer-term prevention of cervical cancer in women and other kinds of cancers in men.

"Because there's a disconnect between what it is that the virus causes right away, and what it is that we're really worried about and really trying to prevent, a lot of people don't understand exactly why it is that we think it's so important," Dunn Explained.

According to the CDC, nearly half of boys ages 13 to 17 received at least one dose of the HPV vaccination last year. Group Health has created a foundation to make immunizations accessible to families that want them but otherwise can't afford them.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA