April 12, 2024

Pediatric Vaccines: Protecting our Children’s Health

History of Vaccines

Vaccines have come a long way since the first successful smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796. In the early 1900s, vaccines were developed for diseases like diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. The polio vaccine arrived in the mid-20th century, leading to the eradication of polio in many parts of the world.

Today’s pediatric vaccine schedule protects children from 16 infectious diseases by age 18. Vaccines have reduced or even eliminated some diseases that were previously very common and dangerous. For example, smallpox has been eradicated worldwide thanks to vaccination efforts. Diseases like polio, measles, rubella and hepatitis B are now rare in the United States due to high childhood vaccination rates.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines work by simulating an infection, which triggers the body’s natural immune response and provides lasting protection against the real disease. Most contain either parts or whole viruses or bacteria that have been killed or weakened. When the vaccine is injected into the body, the immune system recognizes these foreign particles and begins making antibodies against them.

If the vaccinated person is later exposed to the infectious disease, their immune system is primed to destroy the virus or bacteria quickly using the antibodies it already has, before the person becomes sick. This is what prevents disease or reduces its severity. Vaccines are considered one of the most effective public health tools available for disease prevention.

Recommended Vaccine Schedule

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) publishes the recommended childhood immunization schedule each year based on scientific evidence. The schedule aims to provide protection in the earliest years when children are most vulnerable.

By age 2, children should receive vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and influenza. Between ages 2-18, additional doses are recommended for some illnesses, and vaccines are introduced for meningococcal disease, HPV and hepatitis A. Staying on schedule maximizes vaccine effectiveness and offers the earliest protection from serious illnesses.

Benefits of Vaccination

Beyond protecting individual children, widespread childhood vaccination provides population or “herd” immunity. As vaccination rates increase in communities, it becomes much more difficult for disease outbreaks to occur since the infectious agents have fewer hosts to spread to.

Vaccines have prevented countless illness, disability and death over the years in the United States alone. It’s estimated that childhood vaccination has saved over 732,000 adult American lives since 1924 who would have otherwise been vulnerable to catchable diseases. Without vaccinations, public health officials warn that the United States risks losing its herd immunity against preventable diseases.

Concerns about Vaccine Safety

Naturally, some parents may have concerns about the safety of pediatric vaccines. However, medical experts confirm that vaccines are very safe and that the risk of severe side effects is extremely low. For nearly all vaccines, risks of serious side effects are estimated to be about 1 in several millions.

Clinical trials involving thousands of children are conducted before any vaccine is approved for use in the United States. Post-licensure monitoring through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System also continues to track safety. While mild side effects like fever or redness at the injection site are possible after vaccination, serious complications are very rare. On the whole, the health benefits of vaccination far outweigh any potential risks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, thanks to strategic vaccination efforts over the past century, children today have lifelong protection against 16 infectious diseases that were once very common and dangerous. If the United States relaxes vaccination policies, there is substantial risk that preventable disease outbreaks could reemerge here. Public health experts universally agree that vaccination is the safest, most cost-effective approach to keeping individuals and society at large healthy. Parents should feel confident that recommended pediatric vaccines adhere to the highest safety standards while providing crucial protection during a child’s earliest years. Staying on schedule offers children the earliest opportunity for well-established immunity.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it