Every spring, National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is observed to promote the benefits of childhood immunization. This year, it will be held April 21-28.
Since NIIW was established in 1994, communities throughout the United States have sponsored events for parents, guardians and care providers to support proper infant immunization. Early vaccination is encouraged against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, including:
- Bacterial meningitis
- Hepatitis A and B
- Rubeola (red measles)
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Rubella (German measles)
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Immunization is a means of creating immunity to certain diseases by using small amounts of a killed or weakened microorganism that causes the particular disease. Microorganisms can be viruses, like the measles virus, or they can be bacteria, like pneumococcus. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to react as if there was a real infection. The immune system fights off the “infection” and remembers the organism so that it can fight it quickly should it ever enter the body again.
While some may question the need for vaccination against diseases that are rare in the United States, ensuring that your child is vaccinated is critical as, although uncommon, many of these diseases can lead to severe illness and, even, death. Additionally, without continued nationwide infant immunization, there is an increased risk that one of these diseases could, once again, become epidemic.
A common concern about immunization is the association of infant vaccination with autism. A clinical study connecting the two received considerable international attention a couple of years ago, but has, more recently, been proven false and retracted.
Another concern about immunization is that children will have serious reactions to a vaccine or possibly acquire the illness the vaccine is supposed to prevent.
Because the components of vaccines are weakened or killed, and, in some cases, only parts of the microorganism are used, vaccines are unlikely to cause serious illness. Some vaccines may cause mild reactions, but serious reactions are rare.
Common reactions to vaccines include: