The Continuing Importance of Vaccines for Infants and Children
What would a world look like without vaccines?
Now more than ever we are seeing the benefits of having vaccines for illnesses, and the vaccines for COVID-19 are helping us return to some degree of normalcy.
Two years after the public rollout of COVID-19 vaccines began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 78% of Americans have received at least one dose. Because of these vaccines, along with treatments like Paxlovid, many aspects of everyday life have returned to normal.
While COVID-19 requires ongoing vigilance, many diseases have been largely eliminated due to vaccines. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Polio was a dangerous and widespread disease until the advent of a polio vaccine just a few decades ago. Measles was almost completely eradicated in North America until a few years ago when anti-vaccinating movements became more prevalent. As world populations continue to grow, the need for preparedness against diseases like COVID-19 becomes increasingly important, and the best defense for us and our children is a vaccine.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines appear foreign to your child’s body, which then triggers the body’s own immune system to create antibodies to combat the intruder. If the child then ever becomes exposed to that disease in the future, their own body will be able to fight it off. Vaccines also help protect children who are not vaccinated, because when the majority of children in a community are protected by vaccines, there are lower levels of the disease, because fewer people act as carriers of the virus or bacteria that cause the illness. Called “herd” or “community immunity,” this helps to protect children who are not able to be vaccinated due to their age or other medical conditions.
Can children get the illness from a vaccine?
Many vaccines are made with inactive viruses or bacteria, and because there is no live germ it is impossible to get the disease from these vaccines. Some vaccines are made from weaker viruses and bacteria, such as the chickenpox or MMR vaccines. Children can become sick with the disease from these vaccines, but it is usually much less severe than if the child caught the disease itself.
How common are serious side effects from vaccines?
Vaccines have common side effects that are not serious, such as redness and tenderness where the vaccine was given. Children commonly get fevers from vaccines, however, serious side effects from vaccines are rare. For most vaccines, the rate of serious side effects is less than 1 in 1 million. These rates are different depending on the vaccine, but overall, vaccines are extremely safe.
Will my child’s immune system handle getting several vaccines at once?
Children’s immune systems are designed to be exposed to hundreds and thousands of germs on a regular basis. The CDC’s vaccination schedule has been well-studied and is recommended by almost every health care provider for children in the United States.
Are the ingredients in vaccines safe?
The ingredients in vaccines are subjected to intense scrutiny and laboratory study, and each have a specific purpose. For instance, an adjuvant is an ingredient that is used in some vaccines to allow smaller amounts of the bacteria or virus to be used in the vaccine and still make it as effective. Adjuvants also help lessen the side effects, since less of the germ is used. Stabilizers help prevent the vaccine from breaking down over time when exposed to things like heat, sunlight, or humidity, and preservatives are used to keep vaccines from becoming contaminated. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has some very useful information on every single ingredient in infant vaccines, how much of the ingredient is used, and why it is being used.
What are some good resources to research reputable vaccine information?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center
- World Health Organization
The Bottom Line…
As we have seen with COVID-19, vaccines are a powerful tool in the healthcare toolbox. However, just like any tool, vaccines are only effective if they are utilized.
When parents choose not to vaccinate their children, diseases like COVID-19 and others that were once almost completely eradicated will make comebacks. Immunizations have been proven to be safe and have protected millions of children from devastating diseases. Following the recommended vaccination schedule helps protect all infants, especially medically complex infants and those who have spent time in Neonatal Intensive Care Units.
ProgenyHealth would like to remind you to vaccinate your infant. We believe firmly that vaccinating your infant is not only in their best interest, but in the interest of the health of the communities they live in, as well.