Parents have the power to protect their children in many ways. Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles.
In observance of National Infant Immunization Week, April 20-27, Akron Children’s pediatricians are encouraging parents to understand the benefits of vaccinations and that vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world.
“Continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks,” said Dr. Mark Evans of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Brecksville. “Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can be brought into the country, putting unvaccinated children at risk.”
According to the CDC, one example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is the increase in whooping cough (pertussis) cases or outbreaks that were reported in a majority of states last year.
Today, there are cases in every state, and the country is on track to have the most reported cases since 1959.
As of Nov. 16, 2012, more than 35,000 cases have been reported across the U.S., including 16 deaths. The majority of these deaths were among infants younger than 3 months of age.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” said Dr. Evans. “They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”
Other key things to know about vaccines include:
- Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness or tenderness at the site of injection, but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.
- Immunizations can save your family time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or daycare facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care. In contrast, getting vaccinated against these diseases is a good investment and usually covered by insurance. The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from low-income families.
- Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically decreased, and birth defects associated with that virus no longer are seen in the U.S. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future.
The CDC also offers these tools:
- A printable, easy-to-read immunization schedule
- An instant childhood immunization schedule specific to your child
- A personalized catch-up immunization schedule for missed or skipped vaccines
You can also check out the free Shot@Life mobile app created by the UN Foundation and American Academy of Pediatrics. The app will provide you with a fun way to create an electronic scrapbook while tracking important milestones from birth to 5 years old.