The Impact of Vaccines on Children's Health - 4 minutes read

The recommended vaccination schedule lays out which vaccines children should receive and at what ages to provide the best protection. Following the schedule is important for children to be protected from serious diseases by the recommended ages. The current schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccines for 14 potentially serious diseases by age two. Some of the key vaccines and the ages they are recommended include:

- Hepatitis B - Given as a series of 3 shots, the first at birth and the others at 1-2 months and 6-18 months of age to protect against the hepatitis B virus.

- Rotavirus - A 2- or 3-dose series beginning at ages 2 months and 4 months to protect against rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea in babies and young children.

- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis - Given as DTaP vaccine to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). It is administered as a 5 dose series at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.

- Haemophilus influenzae type b - A series of 2-4 shots administered between ages 2 months to 15 months to protect against infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria such as meningitis.

- Pneumococcal - Given as a series of 4 shots between 2 months to 15 months of age to protect against pneumococcal disease, which can cause infections like pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis.

- Inactivated poliovirus - Given as an oral or injected IPV vaccine in a series of doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years to protect against polio.

- Influenza - An annual injection recommended starting at 6 months of age to protect against seasonal influenza.

- Measles, mumps, rubella - Given as MMR vaccine in a series of two doses, the first at 12-15 months and the second dose at 4-6 years of age to protect against measles, mumps and rubella.

- Varicella - A 2-dose series starting between ages 12-15 months and 4-6 years old to protect against chickenpox, caused by the varicella virus.

- Hepatitis A - A 2-dose series recommended between ages 12-23 months and given 6-18 months apart that protects against hepatitis A virus infection.

How Do Vaccines Work and Provide Protection?

Vaccines work by teaching the immune system how to recognize and defend against certain diseases. Most contain weakened or dead germs or just a part of the germ to trigger an immune response in the body without causing the actual disease. When the real germ enters the body later on, the immune system remembers it and is ready to attack it quickly, preventing illness. Herd immunity also plays a role where if the vast majority of people surrounding a child are vaccinated, even those who cannot receive certain vaccines due to medical reasons are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community. High vaccination rates are important for community protection.

Safety of Childhood Vaccines

Pediatric vaccines undergo extensive testing for safety and effectiveness before being approved and continually monitored by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration after approval. Serious side effects are very rare given how many doses of approved vaccines are distributed each year. Four doses or more of most routinely recommended childhood vaccines have been given to tens, if not hundreds of millions of children globally with a demonstrated excellent safety track record. Health experts agree that the benefits of preventing life-threatening diseases far outweigh any potential risks which may occur. Some common minor reactions include soreness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever, or redness temporarily but do not threaten long-term health. While receiving a series of vaccines may seem intense for little bodies, spacing them out does not provide the same quality or durability of protection. Maintaining the recommended schedule keeps everyone as safe as possible.

Reducing Vs. Eliminating Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Keeping vaccination rates high is necessary for reducing the spread of and ideally eliminating some vaccine-preventable diseases in certain parts of the world. Vaccines have successfully eradicated smallpox globally and nearly eradicated polio and measles in many places. However, diseases can resurface if populations are not adequately protected. Outbreaks can still occur when vaccination rates drop too low too often in some areas or communities, allowing these germs an opportunity to spread to vulnerable individuals, like newborns and those with weakened immunity for medical reasons.

In conclusion, vaccinating according to the recommended schedule every time is key for maintaining high overall Pediatric vaccines rates and community protection. Remaining vigilant and upholding confidence in science-based vaccination programs ensures that future generations do not have to experience the tremendous suffering caused by vaccine-preventable illnesses like measles, smallpox or polio.