April 20-27 marked National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). This is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. Additionally, this NIIW is celebrated as part of World Immunization Week.
Vaccines are an important part of maintaining a child's health and wellness. Children are one of the populations most at risk for contracting serious diseases. The current immunization schedule protects children under two from 14 preventable diseases including whooping cough (pertussis), meningitis, and measles.
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The Centers for Disease Control lists five important reasons to vaccinate your child:
• Immunizations can save your child's life: diseases that had injured or killed thousands of children in the United States, such as small pox, have been eliminated completely and others like polio are close to extinction, due to vaccines.
• Vaccination is safe and effective: Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and health-care professionals.
• Immunization protects others you care about: Getting immunized not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of diseases to your friends and loved ones.
• Immunizations can save your family time and money: A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or day-care facilities
• Immunization protects future generations: If we continue to vaccinate now, and vaccinate completely, some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm future children.
• However, when children are not immunized, it is likely the number people with these diseases will increase.
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It is also important that children have regular checkups with their pediatrician so that their parents can be up to date on which vaccines are appropriate. Schools and daycare schools require immunizations in order to ensure children are not spreading serious preventable diseases. The pediatrician can also address any questions or concerns that parents may have about vaccinations.
Dr. John Beckerman practices pediatric medicine at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL. He studied at the University of Chicago and has 23 years of experience.