May 24, 2019 by John Fernandez
Infant Immunizations: Get the Facts
Since 1994, U.S. public health officials and medical organizations have come together in April to spotlight the critical role vaccinations play in protecting our children. That’s the purpose of National Infant Immunization Week (April 16-23).
Between the ages of about 2-6 months – and later between the ages of 12 and 15 months – infants should be protected from a range of potentially dangerous diseases, pediatricians advise parents. Those diseases include measles, whooping cough, hepatitis, rotavirus, varicella, mumps, polio and influenza. Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, according to pediatricians.
Vaccinations – now given in combinations to reduce the number of pokes for the infant and help reduce parental anxiety as well – have helped make childhood diseases that were once common extremely rare in the U.S. Because of the success of immunizations, some parents may not have heard of devastating diseases that once threatened U.S. children decades ago.
‘Benefits Far Outweigh Any Risks’
Nonetheless, publicity stemming from a now discredited association between vaccines and autism has increased worries among some parents about potential side effects. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health have reiterated the safety of vaccines. The CDC states that “studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).”
“We have found that the benefits far outweigh any risks to vaccinations, which are mostly minor side effects on occasion,” says Javier Hiriart, M.D., a pediatrician and physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “It’s important to protect our children against diseases, many of which we don’t see anymore because of the effectiveness of vaccines.”
Steering Parents Toward the Facts
Pediatricians are constantly educating parents on the facts about immunizations for their kids, especially as many moms and dads search the Internet for answers and land on certain websites, many of which may not be objective on the issue of vaccinations or may provide false information.
“I see more parents who want to delay immunizations because they believe the ingredients are questionable,” says Shalini Patel, M.D., pediatric hospitalist at Baptist Children’s Hospital. “They have protective and well-meaning motives, but the information they get is half-baked or false. Controversies created over vaccinations are unfounded.”
There has been substantial progress in reducing the number of trips to the doctor for parents adhering to an infant immunization schedule.
“At each check-up between 2 months and 6 months of age, an infant nowadays can typically expect three injections and one oral vaccine per visit,” says Dr. Hiriart. “That’s almost half as many injections as could have been expected a few years ago.”
Despite these combination vaccines, some parents want to resort to individual shots — and then wait to see if there is any troubling response or side effect. “But delayed vaccinations could put the infant or toddler at risk for harmful diseases,” stresses Dr. Patel.
Both Dr. Hiriart and Dr. Patel spend time steering parents to the proper sources of information, such as the CDC. “You don’t want to see parents Googling sites that are not objective on the issue of vaccines,” says Dr. Patel.
Dr. Hiriart says he reassures parents with any doubts about vaccines that “infants are most vulnerable” to any disease. “The passive immunity passed on from the mother diminishes over the first six months,” he says.
Winning the Fight Against Measles
The fight against measles, a highly contagious virus, illustrates the success of immunizations. The measles vaccination resulted in a 79 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2014 worldwide, preventing an estimated 17.1 million deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In 2014, about 85 percent of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 73 percent in 2000.
“My concern is that any reduction in immunizations will create sporadic outbreaks of diseases that have been highly under control or have been eradicated over time because of safe and reliable vaccines for infants and children,” says Dr. Patel.
Helpful Links on Infant Immunizations: