A brief history
Vaccines are nothing new, but they date back further than you might think. Chinese societies developed the first record of inoculation in 1000 CE. The practice spread to Africa and Turkey, eventually making its way to Europe and America. In 1796, Edward Jenner, an English physician and scientist, ran with the idea of vaccination put forth by the Chinese and used a cowpox material to create the first smallpox vaccine. Over the next 200+ years, Jenner’s methods have been studied and improved upon to eradicate not only smallpox but dozens of other human diseases as well.
Infant Immunization Week, recognized as part of World Immunization Week, runs April 26th – May 3rd and focuses on promoting infant vaccinations. Vaccinations are recommended throughout a child’s life to fight against deadly diseases, but the importance of vaccinations in infancy can’t be understated.
The simple answer is vaccination helps to prevent death from disease, but there’s more to it than that. Vaccines build up immunity. Everyone is born with an immune system. This system is composed of cells, glands, fluids, and organs all located throughout the body. They work together to recognize germs and produce antibodies to fight them off. At infancy, though, our immune systems aren’t as strong as they could be. While we do get some antibodies from our mothers, that immunity doesn’t protect us from everything, and it doesn’t last. Newborn immunity typically disappears within the first 12 months of life. Vaccines provide us with more long-term protection as well s protect your child and other children from getting sick.
Will they make my child sick?
While there can be some minor side effects to vaccinations – mild fever, pain at the injection site, etc. – vaccines are perfectly safe in most cases. Most vaccines received at infancy contain the same antigens (or part of the antigens) as the disease they were developed against. This shouldn’t scare you, though. The antigens in the vaccines are either killed or weakened, so they don’t cause illness but are strong enough to make the immune system produce the appropriate antibodies. As a result, these antibodies lead to immunity from the disease. It is a far safer substitute to have your baby vaccinated than to expose the child to the disease.
When should I have my child vaccinated?
This brings us to a significant point—an immunization schedule. Most pediatricians will provide you with a CDC immunization schedule based on recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. In case you need a copy, we’ve put one together for you.
First-Year Vaccines: Immunization Schedule for Babies
Vaccines at birth
- First dose of hepatitis B*
Vaccines at 2 months
- First dose of DTaP
- First dose of Hib
- First dose of IPV
- First dose of PCV
- First dose of rotavirus
- Second dose of hepatitis B*
Vaccines at 4 months
- Second dose of DTaP
- Second dose of Hib
- Second dose of IPV
- Second dose of PCV
- Second dose of rotavirus
- Third dose of hepatitis B*
Vaccines at 6 months
- Third dose of DTaP
- Third dose of Hib
- Third dose of IPV
- Third dose of PCV
- Third dose of rotavirus
- Influenza (Your baby’s initial flu vaccine will come in two doses a month apart. After that, the CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for children ages six months and older. Click here to read more about the importance of flu vaccinations.)
- Fourth dose of hepatitis B*
*Keep in mind that the CDC requires three doses of hepatitis B immunization. These shots are usually administered during the first year of a baby’s life. Many pediatricians, however, give four doses by including the hepatitis B shot as a part of a routine combination vaccine.
Vaccines at 12 months
- First dose of hepatitis A
Vaccines at 15 months
- Fourth dose of Hib
- Fourth dose of PCV
Your child’s vaccination schedule should continue well beyond the first 15 months of life. It’s especially important to talk to your primary care physician about vaccination specifics like what comes after 15 months and what to do if any immunizations have been missed.
The importance of an immunization schedule.
Keeping to the schedule above will ensure that your little one is immunized at just the right time. The CDC’s recommendations are based on how a child’s immune system develops and responds to vaccines at various stages of life. Delaying vaccines, however, can leave your child vulnerable to disease at the most critical points of development. Think of vaccines like helmets and knee pads. Just like safety equipment protects against serious injury, vaccines protect against serious illness.
The recommended schedule also helps ensure early protection. You wouldn’t wait until you were driving to put your baby in the car seat, right? Of course not; you would buckle them in before you were ever on the road. Vaccines work the same way. They protect from dangerous diseases long before your child is ever exposed to them.
As mentioned above, the schedule also helps to prevent the spreading of illness. Vaccinating on a schedule helps reduce the risk of spreading the disease not just to infants who are too young for certain shots but also people with weakened immune systems. When you choose to vaccinate your child, you aren’t just protecting them; you’re protecting your entire community.
Don’t have smallpox? Thank vaccines.
Diseases – including measles, diphtheria, polio, pertussis (also known as whooping cough), rubella, mumps, tetanus, rotavirus, and influenza – that were once common causes of death in the United States and around the world can now be prevented by vaccination. Vaccines are also to thank for the eradication of one of the most dangerous and deadly diseases known to man: smallpox. Once feared around the world, now smallpox doesn’t even exist outside a laboratory. Over the years, vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives. While some people remain wary of them, vaccines have done a lot for humanity. We encourage you to trust the science and your doctors. Keep to the infant immunization schedule and give your little one all the advantages of early protection while protecting your community at the same time.