Childhood Immunization: More Than a Back-to-School To-Do
It has been more than two years since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the medical community is still talking about the importance of vaccination. The reason? Immunization, which uses vaccines to trigger a protective immune response in the body, is still the best defense against potentially life-threatening diseases, especially in children. Family medicine practitioners get a lot of questions about immunizations. Some of the most important information is below from Alex R. Johnson, MD, at Olathe Health Family Medicine – Paola.
Q. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VACCINATION AND IMMUNIZATION?
A. While vaccination and immunization work together to keep children and others safe, there is a difference between the two. Vaccination is the administration of a disease-specific vaccine, whereas immunization is the protection the body develops from preventable but otherwise serious diseases. Protection comes from the immune response the body creates when it becomes fully vaccinated.
Q. ARE VACCINES SAFE?
A. Yes, vaccines are extensively tested for safety and efficacy before they are administered to the masses. Once approved for licensing by the various regulatory bodies, vaccines continue to be monitored. While mild vaccine-related side effects aren’t unusual, they are typically limited to a sore throat, fatigue and low-grade fever. Serious reactions are extremely rare and are not believed to outweigh the protection otherwise provided by immunization. In some instances, existing health conditions prevent individuals from being vaccinated. To discuss concerns, talk with a provider.
Q. WHEN SHOULD CHILDREN
A. Immunization is so important that it typically begins during the third trimester, when a mother gets the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough, which can be deadly to newborn babies. After birth, parents can follow the standard immunization schedules developed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Designed to provide children with protection against serious illnesses that can cause life-long complications and even death, these schedules start to provide protection in the first few months of life, at a time when many of these infections can strike. Bottom line: Delaying or refusing immunizations can put a child’s health at preventable risk. Fall behind schedule? Just contact a doctor’s office or the local health department to get back on track. Have an under-the-weather child? In most instances, children with mild symptoms can still be vaccinated. Just contact a care provider before the scheduled appointment.
Q. IS THE COVID-19 VACCINE PART OF THE CDC AND AAP’S ROUTINE VACCINE SCHEDULE?
A. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends all children over the age of 6 months get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Q. WHY IS IMMUNIZATION IMPORTANT?
A. With more than 20 vaccinations for once-fatal and/or life-altering illnesses, immunization is one of the most important aspects of a child’s healthcare. From influenza and measles to pertussis and COVID-19, the World Health Organization estimates immunization to prevent 3.5 to 5 million deaths annually. While people could gain immunity through infection in the pre-vaccination era, it often came at the cost of life-long complications and infecting others. Today, immunization reduces the risk of community spread and disease-related complications and death. It has been more than two years since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the medical community is still talking about the importance of vaccination. The reason? Immunization, which uses vaccines to trigger a protective immune response in the body, is still the best defense against potentially life-threatening diseases, especially in children.
To find a Family Medicine provider, please visit olathehealth.org.