10 Things You Need to Know About Vaccines for Children
Aug 17, 2016
We are honoring National Immunization Awareness Month by highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan.
In this guest post, we hear about the importance of protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases from the perspective of a statewide non-profit. The mission of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition is to mobilize diverse partners and families in an effort to advance children’s health through immunizations.
To celebrate the gift of vaccines and to remind parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others of the important role vaccines play in their little one’s early years, we’re highlighting the top 10 things parents should know about childhood immunizations.
1. Vaccines save lives.
Simply put, vaccines work! The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives every year. In fact, immunization is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
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, and we’re getting closer than ever to a polio-free world.
Here in Colorado, vaccination prevented more than 8,600 child hospitalizations in just one year!
2. Vaccines are safe.
Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. See The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine infographic to learn more about the vaccine testing and approval process.
Like any medication or medical intervention, vaccines can cause adverse reactions. The most common vaccine side effects are mild (e.g. a sore arm or mild fever). In many cases, the risk of a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine is 1 in one million. 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, trauma, and possible long-term complications of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The disease-protection benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the risk of possible side effects. Not vaccinating places children at risk for dangerous and potentially fatal vaccine-preventable illnesses.
3. Young children are especially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications.
Children under the age of five are most at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications. In 2014, 63.8 percent of children hospitalized with vaccine-preventable disease in Colorado were four years of age or younger. Unfortunately, in the same year over 25.7 percent of two-year-olds in Colorado had not received all recommended vaccines.
Child care facilities, preschool programs and schools are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments. Make sure you are sending your child to child care and school safe!
4. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist.
Diseases like polio, measles, and mumps are not diseases of the past; vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. However, most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or rubella can have on a family or community, and the benefits of vaccination are often taken for granted. But the truth is they still exist.
For example, measles continues to be brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. While we have the ability to prevent these diseases from harming our most vulnerable, such as babies, the elderly and the immunocompromised, gaps in immunization coverage have allowed these diseases to sneak back into our daily lives. Last year’s measles outbreak was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.
Diseases know no boarders, and with an increasingly transient global society it is more important than ever to ensure our little ones are protected.
5. Vaccines also save money.
A recent study on the social and economic value of vaccination showed that every $1 invested in immunization on average produces $16 in savings in healthcare costs, lost wages, and productivity due to illness. In Colorado alone, vaccination averted nearly $400 million in hospital charges among its children in one year.
6. Vaccination is the norm.
Most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines and are vaccinating their children according to the CDC-recommended immunization schedule. Estimates from a CDC nationally representative childhood vaccine communications poll (July 2014 online poll) suggest that almost 9 out of 10 people are vaccinating on time or are intending to do so.
7. Vaccination is not just a personal choice.
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Vaccines don’t just protect your child. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. We’re all in this together!
While not everyone in a community is able to be vaccinated, everyone benefits from vaccination. When the majority of people in a community are protected through vaccination, there is less opportunity for disease to enter. This concept is known as herd immunity or community immunity. Many kiddos rely on this form of protection from their community. When less than 90% of children are immunized in a particular community, these pockets of low vaccination create an environment where infectious disease can take hold and spread.
Some states, including Colorado, give parents the right to ask for their child care or school’s immunization coverage rates. Arming parents with up-to-date immunization data allows them to make informed decisions about where to send their children.
8. There are ways you can make your child’s shot visits less stressful.
It’s hard to see your child get his or her shots, but you can take some steps before, during, and after a vaccine visit to ease the short-term pain and stress of getting shots. You may want to pack a favorite toy, book, blanket, or other comfort item to keep your child occupied at the visit. You can also distract your child by telling a story, singing, reciting the ABCs, or taking deep breaths together to “blow out” the pain.
After the shot, hug, cuddle, and praise your child. For babies, one of the five “S’s” (swaddle, shush, place on side/stomach, swing, or suck) may offer relief. Comfort and reassure older children if they cry.
If you notice redness, soreness, or swelling from the shot, place a clean, cool washcloth on the area. These reactions are usually mild and resolve on their own without needing treatment. If your child runs a fever, try a cool sponge bath.
Read 9 Things to Make Shots Less Stressful… For You and Your Baby for more helpful tips.
9. Families who seek assistance paying for childhood vaccines have options.
No child should miss out on the benefits of vaccination. Families who need help paying for childhood vaccines should ask their healthcare professional about the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children who do not otherwise have access to recommended childhood vaccines.
Additionally, parents may find support through local programs, such as the Shots for Tots and Teens program in the Denver Metro area. Shots for Tots and Teens offers low- and no-cost monthly Saturday immunization clinics throughout the year with the help of experienced immunization nurses, fire medics, and health care and community volunteers.
10. It’s okay to ask questions.
Like you, your child’s health care provider wants what’s best for your child’s health. If you have concerns, talk to your health care provider. You can also get evidence-based information from these trusted sources:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Every Child by Two
vaccinateyourfamily.org & ecbt.org
- The Immunization Action Coalition
- Immunize for Good
- Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases
- Shot By Shot
- The History of Vaccines
- Vacúnalos por su Bien
- Voices for Vaccines
Remember, not all websites are credible. Learn how to evaluate a website and determine whether it’s trustworthy using this handy guide.
About the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition
The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC) is a statewide, independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Its mission is to strategically mobilize diverse partners and families to advance children’s health through immunizations. CCIC does not accept funding from vaccine manufacturers or distributors. To learn more, visit www.childrensimmunization.org and connect with CCIC on Facebook and Twitter.
Learn more about your local immunization coalition at www.immunizationcoalitions.org.
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...
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