National Infant Immunization Week
occurs each year in April. Immunizations have become a hot-button topic in recent years, especially for infants and small children. Understanding what vaccines do, as well as risk factors of the diseases they prevent and the immunizations is essential for any parent.
Thanks to vaccines, devastating diseases like mumps, measles and tetanus have become extremely rare in the United States.
Polio is on its way to global eradication, following smallpox, due to the effectiveness of childhood immunizations.
In fact, no one gets a smallpox vaccine any more because the disease has been eradicated. That’s the goal for all vaccines! To get rid of the disease globally, and render the vaccine unnecessary.
Despite the success of vaccinations over the past decades, it’s essential that we continue to vaccinate for diseases that are not prevalent
Why? While the diseases may be rare in your state, or even in the United States, they do still exist in other countries and are brought into the United States by people who might not even realize they’re carrying the disease. When this happens, if the community is not vaccinated, a rise in these preventable diseases occurs.
In the past years, the United States has seen an increase in whooping cough (Pertussis)
and a very concerning return of instances of Measles, after not seeing this disease for decades.
Choosing to vaccinate your infant or child will protect him or her from 14 serious childhood diseases
. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends starting vaccinations when children are most vulnerable. See their recommended immunization schedule
and speak with your pediatrician
Naturally, there are risks on both sides of this decision. All medical interventions carry some risk. The risks are not, however, equal.
The risk to not vaccinating kids is to expose them to diseases that have a very high likelihood of maiming or killing them. This is not an overstatement. Vaccines were invented for these diseases because they are so devastating. Infants are especially vulnerable.
Using the whooping cough example above: an adult with whooping cough might miss some work and have nagging breathing problems, but the disease can be fatal for infants. Their undeveloped immune systems put them at higher risk for catching Pertussis and their lungs are not mature enough to handle the disease. In California last year, the number of Pertussis infections and deaths was higher than it had been since 1947, and the link between these cases and parents deciding against immunizing was established.
As mentioned, there are risks for vaccinating your children, as well. They are typically extremely mild, including redness or swelling and slight fever.
Allergic reactions do happen, and a parent should watch their child closely in the hours after a vaccination and for a few days.
There has been no
link between vaccinations and autism, despite repeated studies.
The ONLY study that demonstrated a link has not only been completely discredited (including by 3 of the 4 authors who admitted to warping the data), but the fourth physician and most prominent contributor was banned from practicing medicine in his home country.
The CDC’s website
provides valuable information for parents on immunizations and answers to commonly asked questions
. Also be sure to talk to your trusted pediatrician. Their role is to stay up-to-date on the latest research and information regarding your child’s health. Use this expertise!
If you choose not to vaccinate
your infant or child make sure you:
- Confirm with your pediatrician whether they are willing to keep you as a patient. Pediatric offices are held accountable for the safety of their practices, and unvaccinated children bring high-risk to other children in the practice, especially those too young to be vaccinated.
- Learn the early signs and symptoms of the disease.
- Seek medical attention if early signs are developed.
- Ask your doctor about the best was to protect your child from outbreaks or carriers of the disease.
- Alert your child’s school, childcare facility, and other caregivers about your child’s vaccination status.
- Find out recommendations on travel, especially outside of the United States.