Immunizations have come a long way since the first vaccine was given in 1796. Today, they form a protective barrier around children who are still developing their immune systems and help keep them well throughout their lives.
During National Infant Immunization Week—usually recognized in late April and early May—we celebrate the incredible advances in immunization medicine that have resulted in fewer incidents of preventable disease and longer life expectancies than ever.
Children who follow the recommended immunization schedule published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are protected from 14 preventable diseases by the time they reach age 2.
A single vaccination can potentially save 42,000 lives and prevent 20 million incidents of preventable diseases. Those with compromised immune systems and infants too young for certain vaccines depend on herd immunity—a large portion of the population being vaccinated—to be safe when using public areas or doing simple things, like picking up groceries.
Vaccine technology continues to advance, making it safer to protect children and allowing doctors to keep more diseases from spreading. A single generation ago, chickenpox was still a common occurrence. Today, the widespread use of the varicella vaccine means thousands of children will never have to face the dreaded rash of itchy pox that had the potential to be fatal in some cases.
New vaccines such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can help drive down the incidents of issues related to preventable diseases, such as cervical cancer. So not only do vaccines protect from the diseases they were designed to stop, they can have a broader affect on health.
It’s Never Too Late to Catch Up
Now is a great time to find out whether or not your family is up to date on vaccines. Watch for local initiatives celebrating National Infant Immunization Week or schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor to find out where you stand.
Need a cheat sheet? Visit the CDC’s website for a full immunization schedule recommendations and answers to common questions about how and when to vaccinate.