(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from April 19.)
This week is a good time to ponder that question because it’s National Infant Immunization Week, and World Immunization Week is next week. It’s a good time to talk about making sure you and your family are fully protected against infectious diseases.
This week, the focus is on infants. Why infants specifically instead of all children?
While it’s important that all children have received the recommended vaccinations, giving babies the recommended immunizations by the time they are 2 is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, including whooping cough and measles. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s doctor to make sure their babies’ immunizations are up-to-date.
Some parents may not trust that vaccines are safe, so they may not immunize their children. What would you say to those parents?
We know that parents want to do what’s best for their children, and if they have concerns about the safety or necessity of a particular vaccine, they should talk to their children’s doctors about that. Generally, vaccines are very safe, and they are monitored continuously to make sure they stay that way.
But there are possible side effects, which are listed on the fact sheet given to us when we vaccinate our kids.
Serious side effects are extremely rare, but vaccines do occasionally cause mild reactions, like an achy arm or a low fever. Those symptoms will usually go away within a few hours or days. Choosing not to immunize your child also is a risk, for your child and for other children who might come into contact with your child.
So it’s important for infants and children to get their immunizations. How about adults?
Adults who are immunized are not only protecting themselves, they’re also protecting the people around them who might be vulnerable to diseases they can carry home. When everyone in a community who can get immunized does get immunized, it increases the level of protection for those who can’t, including people with weakened immune systems or newborn babies who are too young to get vaccinations. Pertussis is great example of this: Babies can’t get their first vaccination until they’re 2 months old. While most adults who get pertussis will recover and might not even know they had it, they can infect babies, who may develop serious complications and even die. If adults are immunized, they are much less likely to carry the infection home. Adults also need immunizations to protect themselves against other diseases, depending on their age and health conditions and whether they work in healthcare or travel abroad.
How do you know which immunizations you or your children need?
There is a lot of information on the Department of Health and Welfare’s website, www.immunizeidaho.com, for both adults and children. But if you have questions, you should talk to your medical provider. The bottom line is that protecting our families and ourselves from infectious, vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the most important things everyone can do to keep their loved ones healthy. Immunizations have had an enormous impact on improving the health of children and adults in the United States. Protect yourself and your family by choosing to immunize. It’s the most powerful defense that is safe, proven and effective.