The Power in Prevention: Why Immunizations Matter

Aug 2, 2023 | Children's Health

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Parents prioritize the health and well-being of their children, and one important way to do that is through regular immunizations. Vaccines are powerful tools to shield our little ones from serious illness and allow them to lead healthier lives. 

Donna Zappi Fox, MD, Board Certified pediatrician with Our Lady of Lourdes Children’s Health, shares why immunizations are crucial for kids’ well-being and overall health, how vaccines work to protect individuals and our communities, and why parents should follow the recommended vaccine schedule.

Keeping Kids Healthier and Parents Happy

Children in the past faced a lot more serious illnesses than our children face today.

“Even at the onset of my pediatric training 36 years ago it was common for us to have several children in the hospital at any time with a serious infection,” Dr. Fox says. “With the immunizations we are now blessed to have, the worst cases of these infections have become extremely rare.”

Protecting our children from these very serious illnesses has had the added benefit of reducing the less frightening but more common infections caused by such germs. Kids miss fewer school days, and being up to date on their immunizations has a lot to do with this. When kids are able to be in school that means a lot less time away from work for their parents.

How Immunizations Work to Build Community Resilience

Vaccines work by introducing a small part of the germ or a weakened form of the germ into our bodies. This prompts our immune system to recognize these foreign invaders and produce antibodies, ready to combat the germs if they ever attempt to infect us. The beauty of vaccines lies not only in individual protection but in the concept of herd immunity.

When a significant portion of the community is vaccinated and immune to a particular disease, the germs have a hard time finding susceptible hosts to infect. This ultimately leads to the germs dying off, protecting not just vaccinated individuals but also those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons or age. By embracing immunizations, we contribute to a safer environment for everyone, especially the most vulnerable members of society.

What Routine Vaccines Protect Against

The most common diseases for which we now have effective and strong vaccines are polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal and haemophilus blood and meningitis infections, meningococcal blood and meningitis infections, chicken pox and the flu. Our children are also protected against Hepatitis B, and in some areas, schools are beginning to require protection against Hepatitis A as well.

These vaccines have proven track records of effectiveness and safety. Ensuring your child receives all the recommended vaccines is essential in providing comprehensive protection against these preventable diseases.

Stick with the Guidelines

Immunizations begin at around 2 months old because infants’ immune systems are not fully mature before that age. By starting vaccinations at the right time, we shield babies from serious germs that used to threaten all children. The first portion of the vaccine series is typically completed by about 6 months old.

As children grow, they receive booster doses and additional vaccines, each carefully timed to enhance protection and allow their bodies to respond effectively. For instance, there are booster doses for children ages 4-6 years old, and from 11 years old, there are boosters for germs that pose a threat to older teens, such as meningococcal blood and meningitis infection.

Following the recommended vaccine schedule is crucial. Delaying vaccinations increases the risk of serious infections for children. We strive to prevent this because these infections are preventable, and their potential consequences can be so serious.

To stay up to date on the latest vaccine recommendations, it’s crucial to maintain regular check-ups with your pediatrician. During these visits, vaccine schedules are discussed, and children receive the necessary protections based on their age and specific needs. Download our guide to Wellness Checks from Newborn to Teenage Years with a complete vaccine schedule designed to know what to expect during your child’s upcoming visits. 

“The visits give a great opportunity to discuss any concerns about children with those who have devoted their lives to learning how to help them thrive through these years,” Dr. Fox says. “Pediatric offices welcome our patients and their parents to reach out with any questions along the way.”

Separating Fact and Fiction About Immunizations

Occasionally, concerns and misconceptions about vaccines arise, leading to hesitancy among parents to have their kids vaccinated. Addressing any worries can help parents make informed decisions about their children’s health. While side effects may occur, such as fever or soreness, they are temporary and signify that the immune system is responding to the vaccine, building defenses against the targeted germ.

“People can suggest more worrisome results of taking vaccines – much of this has little proof, but the aspect of this that matters most to me as a pediatrician and especially as a mom is the knowledge of the terrible infections which we are preventing with vaccines,” Dr. Fox says. “I saw what these germs can do to children. If anyone has worries about possible risks or side effects, please look at the infections which the vaccine is designed to prevent.”

An Extra Boost for Acadiana Families

The Shots for Tots program is a valuable resource designed to help children stay on schedule with their important vaccines. Some situations may keep children from receiving vaccines at their pediatrician’s office, making this program an alternative option to maintain essential protections.

The program rotates between various sites throughout the year, including Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. At these events, children in need of vaccines can come with their vaccine records and receive the necessary immunizations. The program ensures that no child falls behind on their vaccines, even if they encounter challenges in accessing healthcare.

Embrace the Protection

“We are blessed to live at a time when there is reason to hope and expect that most children will live healthy long lives,” Dr. Fox says. “The infant mortality rate has dropped dramatically since 1940. Much of this progress has been due to vaccines.”

While infections and illnesses still exist, they often present with much less severity than in the past. Immunizations are potent tools that protect our children from preventable diseases and allow them to lead healthier, longer lives.

“Remember to reach out to your child’s pediatrician with any further questions,” she says. “We strive to keep our patients healthy and happy!”

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