Lyme Disease: Should Your Child Be Vaccinated?

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

WebMD Feature

June 26, 2000 -- The Lyme disease vaccine, which is available to adults, is currently being tested for use on children, says Henry M. Feder, MD, a professor of family medicine and pediatrics at the University of Connecticut Health Center, who participated in the tests. He expects the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve it for kids ages 5 and older as early as this fall.

"There are no serious dangers to children as far as we know," he says. Studies showing that the vaccine affects the immune systems of people with certain genetic traits or those already exposed to Lyme disease have led to concerns that the vaccine itself could cause a form of arthritis, but Feder points out that this problem has not turned up in the testing on kids; in fact, according to the CDC, the incidence of arthritis in vaccinated adults after 20 months was no greater than the incidence in those who received a placebo.

For adults, the vaccine is usually given as a series of three shots: One is given right away, the second is given one month later, and the third after another 12 months -- at which point it's about 80% effective against the disease (an extra booster shot given a short time later may make it somewhat more effective). But it may prove to be equally effective in children after only two shots, Feder says.

"The vaccine would be of greatest benefit to children living in an area where Lyme diagnoses are the heaviest," Feder adds. "Children who will be visiting an area where Lyme is a problem may also want to get the vaccine, but that would have to be decided on a patient-by-patient basis." Of course, since the vaccine doesn't guarantee full protection against Lyme, you'll still need to take precautions against ticks.

Ben Kallen is senior writer for Men's Fitness magazine. He has written on health, nutrition, and psychology for Shape, Muscle & Fitness, Publishers Weekly, and Family PC.

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