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Vaccinations: Q&A with Dr. Nicholas Cahoj

girl receiving vaccination

From the flu virus to hepatitis to measles, there’s a vaccination for many ailments. Many people born in the last 50 years have had their fair share of shots over the years – shots to protect them from contracting deadly or debilitating diseases.

Dr. Nicholas Cahoj, a family medicine physician at Manhattan’s Ascension Via Christi Clinic on 6th Street, answers a few questions about the importance of vaccinations.

Why are they important?
Vaccines have significantly reduced the spread of many illnesses, and in the case of smallpox, have completely eradicated it. Prior to developing a vaccine for measles, there was an estimated 100 million cases and 6 million measles deaths per year globally.

While the World Health Organization states that global measles deaths have decreased by 84% worldwide in recent years — from 550,100 deaths in 2000 to 89,780 in 2016 — measles is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. An estimated 7 million people were affected by measles in 2016. The measles vaccine has been in use since the 1960s – it is safe, effective and inexpensive.

Who should receive vaccinations?

These vaccinations begin as early as the first 24 hours after birth.

Children should start to receive vaccinations shortly after birth. The first hepatitis B vaccination can be administered within 24 hours of birth. The recommended immunization schedule calls for vaccinations at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, 15 months, 1 year and 5 years. A Tdap booster and meningococcal vaccine are due between the ages of 11 and 12.

It’s recommended that adults and children also receive a flu shot each year. It is also recommended that adults receive a tetanus booster every 10 years.

Those over 60 should receive a herpes zoster vaccine, which is to help prevent shingles, and adults over 65 should have two immunizations for pneumonia. Other immunizations may be recommended for patients with certain medical conditions.

What do you say to parents who are unsure about vaccinations?

I typically ask parents what their reservations are for opting not to give or for delaying vaccinations. Common reasons include the necessity of vaccinations, discomfort, possible side effects and religious objections. I reassure parents about the overall safe profile of vaccinations. I discuss my concerns for children who are not vaccinated and how they are more likely to develop serious infections such as pneumonia or meningitis. 

Sometimes patients do not want vaccinations because they feel they are healthy with strong immune systems and feel the vaccination is not necessary for their own health. I talk about their family or friends with weakened immune systems (possibly grandparents, infants, people with cancer, etc.) and the potential that they may exposed them to a serious infection. People with weakened immune systems are more prone to hospitalization or death. The herd immunity helps keep us all healthier.

Are there some vaccines that are more critical than others?

I believe all vaccines are important and recommend giving them to all children unless there is a medical condition that would make the person ineligible for the vaccine.  If parents only want to give only a few vaccinations, I recommend haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal (for pneumonia), MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and meningococcal (for meningitis). These bacteria or viruses are likely to cause more serious illness like pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis and death, and can spread quickly compared to some other preventable infections.

If you have questions about vaccinations, talk with your physician. If you do not have a pediatrician or family physician, contact one of our clinics:

About Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy is the Senior Marketing Specialist for Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg and Wamego Health Center. She is a proud wife and mom and loves cooking, camping and spending time outdoors, her dogs and reading.