It’s easy to assume that it’s largely people in developing nations who are behind on vaccines. But that’s not the case. A growing number of people in developed countries, including Canada and the United States, are choosing to forgo recommended vaccinations for their families.
As we enter World Immunization Week, it’s an important reminder for parents to keep their children up-to-date with vaccinations. This is especially important for babies, who have more vulnerable immune systems. Whether you’re hesitant about vaccines or are unclear when is the right time to get immunized, this week is about spreading knowledge on life-saving immunizations. Here’s what parents need to know.
What Is World Immunization Week?
World Immunization Week is celebrated annually during the last week of April. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), this global health campaign is meant to promote awareness and education about the benefits of vaccines to stop the spread of preventable disease.
WHO first introduced the campaign in 2012, and each year it has a different theme. In 2021, the theme was “vaccines bring us closer,” whereas this year it’s “long life for all.”
According to WHO, immunizations prevent between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. Despite the widespread success of immunizations, many people are still unvaccinated and therefore at risk. Approximately 22.6 million infants across the world are missing basic vaccines.
When Newborns Need Their Shots
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains it’s important to ensure your baby receives the recommended vaccines in their first few years of life. This can protect them against 14 potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, and mumps.
Your baby’s healthcare provider will give you information about when to get their immunizations. Generally, babies will receive some vaccines at birth and others months and years later as they develop. This can vary depending on factors like your baby’s weight, milestones, and overall health.
One of the first vaccines your infant will get post-birth is the first dose of their Hepatitis B shot. Then, you’ll likely be instructed to bring them in for immunizations at the 2, 4, and 6-month milestones. Take a look at the CDC’s vaccinations schedule for babies for more information.
Reasons To Vaccinate Your Baby
People are growing pandemic wary about immunizations, especially for children and since the onset of the coronavirus. We encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider to understand the benefits and risks of vaccines to make an informed decision for yourself.
In general, medical experts strongly recommend getting all recommended vaccines. If you choose to leave your child unvaccinated, it can hinder their health in the future. Depending on where you live, it may also restrict their ability to attend public school and travel internationally.
Some reasons to vaccinate your baby include:
Babies are more vulnerable
In an article for Mayo Clinic, Dr. Jay Hoecker explains that it’s important not to skip your baby’s immunization because children are more susceptible to disease the younger they are. Infectious diseases that may be mild in adults can be life-threatening for young kids.
It’s true that babies can get some immunity from their mothers, especially if breastfeeding. But Dr. Hoecker explains this usually fades by 6-months, making immunizations an extra layer of protection.
Strengthens their immune system
Vaccines work by strengthening the immune system. They build up the body’s natural defenses to help make them immune to disease or at least mitigate the effects. Vaccines include a small number of antigens that helps the immune system recognize and learn to fight disease. This not only offers your baby protection at the moment but into the future.
Vaccines are proven to be safe
Before a vaccine is released to the public, it goes through extensive testing and research to ensure its efficacy. The CDC, for instance, explains that the Federal Drug Administration conducts extensive lab testing to ensure the safety of all immunizations. It can take up to several years to approve a new vaccine.
Additionally, once a vaccine is approved, a variety of national health agencies monitor its usage and investigate any points of concern.
For decades, there’s been concern that vaccines may contribute to autism. This theory was first contrived in a 1998 paper that claimed to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, Dr. Andrew Wakefield – the man behind the study – was later found to have altered his data, so the conclusions would support his theory. The paper was dubbed fraudulent, and he was stripped of his medical license by England’s General Medical Counsel.
Subsequent studies haven’t found a link between vaccines and autism, WebMD explains, and parents are still encouraged to follow through with all recommended immunizations for babies.
To understand the importance of vaccines, especially for babies, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor. Don’t be afraid to bring all of your questions and concerns to them, so you can get all the information necessary to make an informed decision for your family.
Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, Mayo Clinic, WebMD,
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