In a recent joint report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have released the recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedules for 2017. While immunization schedules are typically updated annually, medical professionals view some of the recent schedule updates as significant changes for pediatricians. Influenced by new trends in nationwide adolescent health, notable changes to the recommendations include:
1. Adolescents should no longer be given the live attenuated influenza vaccine. Flu-related hospitalizations and deaths have spiked nationwide since the start of the 2016–2017 flu season. Children younger than 4 years old have been especially vulnerable; according to the CDC, as of March 11, 2017, 53 children had died from influenza.
In an analysis of currently used vaccination strains, researchers from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices found that the live attenuated influenza vaccine, given to children as a nasal spray, has an effectiveness rate of only 3 percent. Due to the vaccine’s significantly low rate of protection against the flu, the updated vaccination schedule no longer recommends this type of vaccine for pediatric care.
2. HPV vaccines can now be given to adolescents as young as 9 and 10 years old. Previously, routine vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV) was recommended for adolescents once they were 11 or 12 years old. However, HPV rates continue to remain high for teens and young adults. As a result, the joint report recommends immunization for younger populations to prevent them from acquiring this sexually transmitted disease (STD) in their teenage years.
The new two-dose vaccination schedule will be used for all adolescents starting the HPV vaccination series before age 15. Additional updates to current HPV recommendations include the removal of the vaccine strain 2vHPV, as it is no longer available in the United States.
3. Meningococcal boosters should be given to teens at 16 years old. Meningococcal meningitis is rare, thanks to readily available and effective antibiotic therapies. However, if not treated promptly, it poses an elevated risk for mortality and long-term neurological defects in infected children and adolescents. To lower the infection rate nationwide, the updated schedule now emphasizes the necessity of the one-time booster at 16 years old.
Specifically, the joint report recommends that adolescents ages 11 to 18 years old receive the serogroup B vaccine to prevent against the most common cause of meningitis for children in the U.S. Other updates to the pediatric meningococcal vaccination schedule include new vaccination recommendations for children with HIV infection.
The CDC and AAP report also provides resources, including easy-to-read immunization schedules and educational materials, to aid in the successful implementation of the vaccination schedule updates and to help providers communicate changes to parents and families.