- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

New federal childhood immunization schedules call for the vaccination of pre-teen girls against a sexually transmitted disease that is a leading cause of cervical cancer, expanding the age range for flu shots and adding a rotavirus vaccine.

The new schedules released yesterday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say girls aged 11 to 12 should use a newly approved vaccine against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) — a prospect that already has been stirring debate in many states.

Several states, including Texas, are considering mandatory HPV vaccines for adolescent girls — a prospect that has some parents fearful that it will promote promiscuity for girls who feel protected from the disease.

“The vaccination series can be started in females as young as age 9 years; and a catch-up vaccination is recommended for females 13 to 26 who have not been vaccinated previously or who have not completed the full vaccine series,” said the new schedule, published in the current issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The Federal Drug Administration last year approved Gardasil, the vaccine for human papillomavirus, which is linked to 85 percent of all cervical cancer.

The changes in the 2007 schedules, approved by the 15-member Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises federal health officials on disease prevention; the American Academy of Pediatrics; and the American Academy of Family Physicians, also include:

• Routine administration of oral live rotavirus vaccine to all infants at ages 2, 4, and 6 months. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children and kills roughly 500,000 children a year globally. In the U.S., it affects 2.7 million children in an average year and 75 percent of children get diarrhea from rotavirus by their 5th birthday.

• Administration of a second dose of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine to all children between 4 and 6 years of age.

• Annual influenza (flu) vaccination has been expanded to include children between 6 and 59 months of age. Vaccination is also recommended for close contacts of children up to 59 months of age.

In announcing the modifications, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this is the first time that vaccination schedules for children and teens were divided up by age. She said one schedule is for youngsters from birth to 6 years old; the second is for those ages 7 to 18.

Dr. Schuchat said the decision to separate the schedules reflects the fact that “an increasing number of vaccines [are] being developed to protect adolescents against disease” as some vaccines administered earlier lose their potency.

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