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World Immunization Week and the Importance of Routine Vaccinations

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Over the past year, no one can hear the word vaccine without thinking of one thing: COVID-19. The coronavirus has elevated our understanding of the efficacy of virus immunizations in ways that many Americans have not needed to think about in modern times. COVID-19 reminds us, however, that our bodies are, in many ways, fragile and that we must guard against virus contagion and keep those dangerous conditions that we have suppressed from the population over time through routine vaccinations at bay with continual routine vaccination best practices.

If you are a parent or hoping to become pregnant and you have considered the possibility of not giving your children the routine vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we implore you to talk to your doctor. Ask them about the risks of not seeking vaccinations for your children and the proven benefits of routine immunizations. Also, read on to learn about recommended routine immunizations and the dangerous health conditions from which they protect us.

Immunizable Conditions and the CDC’s Recommended Vaccine Schedule

The CDC’s recommended routine immunizations protect Americans from the following dangerous and sometimes deadly viruses and bacterial infections:

Vaccines Administered Starting at Birth

  • Hepatitis B. A virus that can cause chronic swelling of the liver and possible lifelong complications. If contracted, infants are more likely than adults to develop an incurable chronic infection that can result in liver damage and liver cancer.

Vaccines Administered Starting at One to Two Months

  • Diphtheria – A serious infection of the nose and throat in which a sheet of thick, gray matter covers the back of the throat, making breathing difficult
  • Tetanus (lockjaw) – A serious bacterial infection that affects the nerves and causes painful muscle spasms, and can lead to death
  • Whooping cough (pertussis) (DTaP) – A highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is particularly dangerous for infants causing a cough that sounds like “whoop,” a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – A name for any illness caused by bacteria called H. influenzae, some of which—like ear infections—are mild while others—like bloodstream infections—are serious
  • Polio (IPV) – A virus transmitted through contaminated water and food or contact with an infected person that may cause paralysis, which can sometimes be fatal
  • Pneumococcal (PCV) – The name for any infection caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae, causing a range of infections that range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections
  • Rotavirus (RV) –Typically causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in infants and young children and dehydration that may result in hospitalization or death

Vaccines Administered Starting at Six Months

  • Influenza –The flu; a common viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups, young children, and the elderly

Vaccines Administered Starting at 12 to 23 Months

  • Chickenpox (Varicella) – An infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus that causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters; it is highly contagious to those who haven’t had the disease or been immunized against it
  • Measles –A highly contagious infectious disease that causes fever, often greater than 104 °F, cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes
  • Mumps – A viral infection that affects the salivary glands and the parotid glands
  • Rubella – A contagious viral infection that causes a distinctive red rash; while it may cause mild or no symptoms, it can cause serious complications for unborn babies whose mothers become infected during pregnancy
  • Hepatitis A – A highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus that spreads from contaminated food or water or contact with someone who is infected; symptoms include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever

Vaccines Administered Starting at 11 to 12 Years

  • Meningococcal conjugate – Any illness caused by the meningococcus bacteria which cause infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and bloodstream, which are often severe and can be deadly
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – The most common sexually transmitted infection, which can lead to genital warts or cancer

Vaccines Administered Starting at 50 Years

  • Shingles – A viral infection that causes a painful rash that often appears as a single stripe of blisters wrapping around one side of the torso

Vaccines Administered Starting at 65 Years

  • Pneumonia – An infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs, sometimes filling them with pus or fluid, causing such symptoms as cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing; the infection can be life-threatening to anyone, but particularly to infants, children, and people over 65

As we recognize World Immunization Week, we aim to reinforce the critical importance of vaccines as one of the world’s most successful health interventions and the crucial role that vaccines play in protecting us from infections and viruses whose symptoms range from uncomfortable to deadly. If you have questions about the vaccines appropriate for you, or what vaccines you should give to your children, and any possible risk considerations, talk to your doctor.