It is one of the easiest and effective means of protecting your child from serious illnesses and consequences including seizures, brain disease or even death. Experts say that getting your child vaccinated can provide lifetime protection. April 16 marks the beginning of National Infant Immunization Week, which raises awareness and promotes discussion about the use of vaccines in the United States and around the world.
Current recommended vaccines:
The researched and recommended vaccine schedule for all infants in the United States is 14 vaccines before the age of two. While it seems like a lot, doctors say your child’s body can handle it.
“Multiple vaccines do not overwhelm a child’s immune system,” said Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Medical Director, Pankaj Nagaraj, M.D., UnityPoint Health. “Antigens are the substances that create immunity to disease. Improved vaccine development has led to a decrease in the number of antigens in each vaccine. While there may be more vaccines given now than a decade ago, the number of antigens a child’s system must respond to is less than what a single vaccine contained 50 years ago.”
Studies showed about 13 percent of all parents are on the fence about vaccine administration. However, only three percent advocate against vaccine administration. Dr. Nagaraj believes children who are not vaccinated pose a threat to themselves contracting life threatening disease and to the community.
“To new parents, I always emphasize the advantages regarding vaccinations and ask them not to do it for themselves, but for their kids to have a healthy and happy future,” Dr. Nagaraj said.
The current vaccine schedule shows babies should begin getting their shots shortly after birth. Providers want you to remember that these diseases still exist, even though many young parents today may have never seen a case, due to the success of the current immunization program.
“Despite the absence of diseases like polio, diphtheria and tetanus in entire communities, some parents remain unconvinced about the importance of immunizations. Yes, it’s true that a few children do not respond to one vaccine or another, no vaccine has a record of 100 percent effectiveness. However, depending on the study being cited, childhood vaccines are 85 percent to 95 percent effective. That’s a remarkable track record, particularly when you take into account the serious nature of many of these infections,” Dr. Nagaraj said.
What about spreading out the vaccine schedule?
Some parents want to spread out the vaccines their child is receiving beyond what’s currently being recommended. However, providers warn that isn’t a wise choice.
“The myth that spreading vaccines out is ‘safer’ is untrue. Also, you want to make sure the vaccines are given in a timely basis, as the effectiveness wanes off if it is not given in a timely nature,” Dr. Nagaraj said.
If you accidentally miss a vaccine, you do not need to start over again. Just talk to your pediatrician, and they’ll help get your child back on track.
Why are there combination vaccines?
Some parents are also concerned about vaccines that fight against multiple diseases in one vaccine. For example, the MMR vaccine fights against measles, mumps and rubella and, the DTaP vaccine battles diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. Medical experts say not to worry; these vaccines have been extensively studied and are safe.
Remember, each vaccine has antigens in them, which cause the immune system to work and create defenses that protect the body. However, the antigens in vaccines aren’t the only ones your child will come across. Children are exposed to antigens during normal, everyday activities, such as playing outside, eating food or when sick with an infection. Healthy children’s immune systems can handle multiple exposures.
What about Autism?
The increasing rate of children diagnosed on the Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has some parents putting the blame on vaccines. Yet, studies fail to support any claim of the sort.
There are several theories, but one rumor circulates around thimerosal. It’s a mercury-based preservative once used in several vaccines, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is still used in some flu vaccines. The AAP, the American Medical Association (AMA), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) agree that scientific research does not support a link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
All physicians are mandated to report any adverse effects of vaccines to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), so that it can be studied further. Action is taken immediately if any concerns are flagged. For example, a Rotavirus vaccine found to be associated with an intestinal condition called intussusception was taken off the market, immediately.
Why immunizations are so important
Immunizations are the cornerstone of preventive health, and the AAP strongly believes every child needs and deserves the protection that they provide.
“When children are not immunized, the results can be devastating. Each year, thousands of children in the United States become seriously ill with diseases that could have been prevented with adequate and timely immunizations. Immunizations are among the most effective medical interventions of all time.
Short of basic sanitation and nutrition, no medical intervention has done more to save lives and prevent disease than immunizations.”
If you have any questions about infant immunization, talk to your UnityPoint Health provider or pediatrician.