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Let’s Talk Immunizations

By Susan Suchy, RN, BSN May 12, 2023 Posted in: Primary Care

If you’ve fallen behind on your child’s immunizations, you aren’t alone. This year, World Immunization Week celebrated “The Big Catch-Up” to get people around the world back on track with immunizations. 

Millions of children missed out on vaccines during the pandemic. The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week was for more children, adults and entire communities to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, so they can live happier, healthier lives. 

Why are vaccines so important? They teach your body’s immune system to fight harmful viruses and bacteria. Vaccines also prevent others from getting sick by stopping the spread of diseases. 

Every day, all over the world, children receive vaccines safely. Each vaccine helps protect them from serious and deadly diseases. They’re so effective, you probably rarely hear about the diseases they prevent. For example, do you know anyone with polio? A vaccine saved our parents and grandparents from this crippling disease in the 1950s. You also probably don’t worry about smallpox. A vaccine ended that epidemic by the 1980s.

We now have vaccines for 14 serious illnesses - from tetanus to chicken pox -  thanks to decades of research. As early as the day of birth, babies receive their first vaccine for hepatitis B. By age 6, they’ve typically received vaccine doses for 10 or more illnesses – from rotavirus to chickenpox. 

Despite all the evidence of the good vaccines do, many people still hesitate to get these routine immunizations. Let’s tackle two of the most common myths. 

Myth: Vaccines aren’t safe. 

Fact: Misinformation about vaccines has flooded social media over the last few years. Fears that vaccines can cause allergies, autism or other conditions have all been found to be untrue. Vaccines are the result of decades of scientific research. They are thoroughly tested and completely safe for the vast majority of people. Minor side effects are not common but include mild redness, tenderness or swelling at the vaccine site or a low-grade fever. If you have questions or concerns about vaccines, your health care provider is your most reliable source of information. 

Myth: It’s better to let children get illnesses and build up natural immunity rather than vaccinate against them.

Fact: Whooping cough, an illness that’s prevented by a vaccine, can be deadly for babies – especially in the first six months of life. About half of babies with this disease end up hospitalized, a consequence that can be avoided by simply getting vaccinated. In fact, this childhood illness nearly disappeared in the 1940s with the arrival of a vaccine, but has experienced a resurgence in more recent years. This is just one example of how vaccines can prevent serious illness and even death. 

So what immunizations might your kids need? Your provider can help you figure out which  immunizations are needed and when. Here’s a list of all the immunizations that occur throughout childhood. 

Birth to 15 months

Hepatitis B (HepB)

Rotavirus (RV)

Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP)

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)

Inactivated poliovirus (IPV)

Influenza (11v4)

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Varicella (VAR)

Hepatitis A (HepA)

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Meningococcal

Meningococcal B (MenB)

Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)

Dengue (only if living in dengue endemic areas and had previous dengue infection)

18 months to 18 years

Hepatitis B (HepB)

Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTap)

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)

Inactivated poliovirus

Influenza

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Varicella (VAR)

Hepatitis A (HepA)

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Meningococcal

Meningococcal B (MenB)

Poliovirus

Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)

Dengue (Seropositive in endemic areas only)

For a full schedule of recommended vaccines, go to CDC.gov/vaccine. If your child has missed a shot, now is always a good time to get caught up. 

If you’re still unsure about vaccines because of things you’ve heard or read, talk to your primary care provider. Like all medications, there are rare reactions, but your provider can answer these questions and address your concerns.  It’s important to get the facts about life-saving vaccines which can protect your children for years to come.  

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