Vaccines are the best shot at good health

 

DOVER — As National Infant Immunization Week gets underway, doctors and pediatricians across the nation are reinforcing the importance of infant and childhood vaccines that reduce a child’s chances of illness and even death from many common diseases.

“Most parents understand the importance of immunizations and follow the schedule,” said Julia Pillsbury, a physician at Dover’s Center for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. “And that’s a good thing and one of the reasons we’ve seen cases of so many preventable illnesses reduce over the years.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed a timeline to guide parents and doctors about which vaccinations should be given at what age and the guide starts at birth.

 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a “Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations” to download or to be mailed at www.cdc.gov/vaccines   (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a “Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations” to download or to be mailed at www.cdc.gov/vaccines (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

Newborns are recommended to receive their first hepatitis B shot within 24 hours of birth for the best protection.

“The hepatitis B immunization has been one of the best to develop over the past few decades,” Dr. Pillsbury said. “This vaccine has been miraculous because when I was training, hepatitis B caused serious infections and complications in a lot of children.”

Over the past 30 or 40 years, great strides have been made in the vaccination for hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child and the disease causes liver complications that can result in chronic illness, liver cancer and even death.

Dr. Pillsbury said parents may be more on board with immunizations for serious illnesses like hepatitis, but even illnesses like chicken pox can cause longterm health consequences.

“Something as simple as chicken pox will make the child more susceptible to shingles later in life,” Dr. Pillsbury said. “So it’s important to follow through with all the vaccines.”

Not every kid who gets chicken pox will have a mild case that just causes itchy skin. Chicken pox can include blisters that become infected and pneumonia can develop as a consequence. Before the vaccine was common, about 50 children died in the U.S. each year as a result of chicken pox.

Whooping cough is a condition that despite a vaccine being available, some parents will neglect so doctors still see cases every year, especially around winter.

In children, the symptoms are heavy coughing that can be relentless for up to 10 weeks and even cause broken ribs. The condition is even worse for infants who when not coughing may at times stop breathing. As a result children die, but numbers show the vaccination has been beneficial as it has become more common.

In 1990, 138,000 people died from whooping cough worldwide but that number was down to 61,000 in 2013. Children under a year old are the most likely to die from this preventable disease.

Vaccinations for chicken pox, whooping cough and many other diseases require booster shots to allow for the best protection possible.

Although not a booster, the flu vaccine should be given to children once a year starting when they reach six months. The flu vaccine is typically marketed to the elderly and those with auto-immune diseases, but infants and young children are a demographic equally at risk of catching the flu.

To new parents, the vaccine schedule may seem overwhelming and too many shots too fast but many have been condensed into a single vaccine.

“Parents may see the schedule for immunizations and be hesitant because it seems like a lot of shots, but now, many can be given in combination so one shot can cover several immunizations,” she said.

Some examples are DTaP which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus and MMR which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest three hepatitis B vaccines (one at birth, another between one and two months and one more between six and 18 months. The DTap vaccine should be administered five times before age 6.

Aside from the apprehension parents may feel about the number of immunizations their child is recommended to receive, side effects of the shots are also a concern, mostly since the majority of vaccines use live but weakened germs.

“The complications that come along with immunizations have gone down immensely and the risk of any adverse side effects is always dropping,” Dr. Pillsbury said.

The most common effects are soreness at or around the injection site, a slight rash or a low-grade fever, all of which should last no more than a couple days.

The CDC reports that severe allergic reactions to vaccines are extremely rare and happen in only one out of one million vaccinations, so the benefit of a child becoming immune to more than a dozen potentially fatal diseases within his or her first six years outweighs the risk.

And the benefits of vaccines aren’t only for your children, vaccines benefit those around them, especially those too young for specific vaccines and those with weakened immune systems. The more people vaccinated, the smaller the chance anyone will get sick.

The CDC uses an epidemic of whooping cough of an example for why large populations should be vaccinated:

“In the mid-1970s, about 80 percent of Japanese children were vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough). In 1974, there were only 393 cases of whooping cough in the entire country, and no one died from it. But then, because of fear about the vaccine’s safety, the immunization rate dropped to only about 10 percent. Within five years, the country was in the grip of a whooping cough epidemic that infected more than 13,000 people and left 41 dead in 1979 alone. When routine vaccination was resumed, the disease numbers dropped again.”

For more information about childhood immunizations and the schedule your child show follow, visit cdc.gov/vaccines.

 

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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