Early childhood vaccines are important to protect your child and prevent outbreaks of diseases like pertussis and measles. Vaccines are one of the single most lifesaving public health measures, and they undergo a rigorous testing and approval process before they are available for public use. Our immune systems are complex and there can be a lot of confusing and sometimes inaccurate information about vaccines on the internet. It isn’t always easy to find the truth, so we wanted to share a brief overview of early childhood vaccines and some of the diseases they protect against.
The current vaccine schedule recommends immunizing children for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, haemophilus influenzae B, hepatitis A & B, polio, multiple strains of pneumococcal bacteria, measles, mumps and rubella, rotavirus, varicella (chicken pox) and seasonal influenza before the age of 2. While some parents worry that so many vaccines could overwhelm a small child’s immune system or otherwise cause harm, the science is very clear that the standard vaccine schedule is safe and designed to protect children against serious illnesses.
Because vaccines have been so effective, many are unfamiliar with the diseases that they prevent. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes a tough membrane to develop in the nose and throat and obstructs breathing and can cause heart and nerve damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, it has an overall fatality rate of 5-10%, higher in children under age 5. Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) is another bacteria that can cause meningitis, epiglottitis (swelling in the throat that can lead to suffocation), heart disease, or infections and damage to the bones and joints. Fatality rates range from 3-6%, even with appropriate antibiotic treatment, and up to 20% of those infected have permanent hearing loss or other neurological complications. And while most of us have heard stories about the deaths and neurological problems that polio infections caused, the fear that gripped parents when a polio outbreak was occurring in their community is something many younger folks only recently began to understand during the Covid pandemic.
As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic, it’s important to make sure that our children are protected from serious illnesses like measles, diphtheria, and Hib by keeping them up to date on childhood vaccines. Your child’s primary care provider is the single best source when you have questions about vaccinating your little one, and they will welcome the opportunity to answer your questions. If your child is due or overdue for vaccines or needs a well-child check, contact your clinic to schedule an appointment. And if you’re looking for a primary care provider for your child, all of our medical providers at NorthLakes are accepting new patients of all ages. Contact 888.834.4551 to schedule a visit!
Lori Cannon is a registered nurse and Clinical Quality Improvement Manager at NorthLakes Community Clinic.