What is a Childhood Immunization?
Beginning in infancy, a child will receive a series of immunizations which are designed to protect against disabling and infectious diseases. Immunizing children is hands down one of the most important and cost-effective public health interventions to ever happen. Over the past two decades alone, more than 20 million lives have been saved and countless other children have been protected from illness, disability and death.
An immunization or vaccination is an administration of antigens from a specific disease, which is used to impart immunity to the human body. Immunizations are considered to be the best and most effective way in which to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Efforts to vaccinate have been fueled with controversy since the beginning and people argue in favor or against immunizations based upon ethical, personal, religious, safety or medical reasons. Because of the success of mass vaccination campaigns, it has resulted in greatly reducing the spread or contributed to the total elimination of certain diseases, in many geographical regions.
Different Types of Childhood Immunizations
Immunizations are the first line of defense against several different types of infectious and disabling diseases. Without being vaccinated, a child may face serious or even life threatening illnesses, which may not be able to be treated. The following list contains a schedule of childhood immunizations which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)
- Hepatitis B
- HIB (Haemophilus influenza type B)
- DTaP vaccine (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertusiss)
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- Hepatitis A
- Meningococcal vaccine
- Human Papillomavirus (adolescent girls only, recommended at age 11 and administered in three stages)
Benefits and Side Effects of Immunizations
There are many mild side effects which can occur with a vaccine, but the risks are small when considering the health risks associated with being unvaccinated. Benefits of vaccines include the avoidance of spreading infectious diseases, an improved immune system and prevention of a disease is much cheaper than treating it. Some common side effects of vaccination include; pain, tenderness and redness at injection site, fever, overall body discomfort, some individuals may develop mild cold-like symptoms. In cases of suspected allergic reaction, difficult breathing and facial or extremity swelling, a person should seek immediate medical attention without delay as it could be indicative of a more serious reaction.
When Should Childhood Immunizations Be Delayed?
With the advent of autism in the news and possible suspected links to immunizations, though not scientifically established, some parents are not comfortable with the “standard” vaccination schedule. While some parents are firmly against vaccinations of any type, there are alternatives other than not immunizing a child. There are several reasons why a parent or physician may want to delay normal vaccination and opt for an alternative schedule instead.
Alternative vaccine schedules include the incorporation of selective and delayed immunization, administering fewer shots and spacing out over a longer period of time, which can avoid any adverse side effects and give the child’s immune system time to improve and develop better. Parents and health care providers that work together and form an understanding of vaccines and certain health risks can find a way to make informed choices when it comes time to immunize a child.
Immunization Awareness Week (April 19th-26th, 2010)
The National Infant Immunization Week highlights the importance of protecting babies and young children from some of the most common infectious diseases. Unarguably, vaccination against infectious diseases is one of the most profound and successful medical breakthroughs of all time. The American Academy of Pediatrics understands that parents may have questions and concerns about vaccines and during the campaign strives to allay fears and enlighten people about the benefits of immunizations.
It is believed that by providing the public with informational brochures, community awareness workshops and other educational tools, that people will not be so frightened or against childhood vaccinations. While there are risks and side effects with vaccinations, nothing can be as bad as watching a child endure physical suffering due to an otherwise preventable disease. By informing and raising public awareness about the benefits of immunizations during childhood, it is hoped that people will be more likely to have their child vaccinated.
Common Childhood Vaccine Myths
- Childhood vaccines cause autism: there is no link to definitively prove that autism is linked to immunizing a child.
- Vaccines are not needed: childhood vaccines provide protection against a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases and if rates drop, it will lead to an increase of these diseases.
- The side effects of vaccines are dangerous: any type of vaccine can cause side effects, but rarely does a child experience a neurological side effect, allergic reaction or fatality. No child should receive a vaccine without first getting a complete physical evaluation by a medical professional for these reasons alone.
- Children are immunized too early: childhood vaccines are given early to avoid a child contracting a disease at a young age, when the risks and complications can be very serious, or even deadly.
- It is fine to skip certain vaccines because of safety concerns: generally, skipping vaccinations is not a good idea. For some children that miss a dose of a particular vaccine, the only defense is the immunity of individuals around the person.
In the United States, children routinely get vaccinations to protect them from many diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus and mumps. Most diseases a child is vaccinated for are at the lowest levels in history, due to years of systematic immunization. Children are required to have a certain set of immunizations prior to entering school because of the risk posed to other children, if a parent or caregiver has questions it is best to address the situation with the child’s doctor.
Vaccines are responsible for making a person immune to a certain disease without having to get sick in order for it to happen. Without immunizations, a child must first contract a particular disease in order to develop a level of immunity, which can have devastating and long-term consequences. Vaccines are designed to work best at certain ages and the Centers for Disease Control have published a list of childhood immunizations for reference if a parent has any questions.