Editor's Note: This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Q: What should we know about infant immunizations?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies come into the world with some temporary immunity (protection) from their moms. However, these immunities are short-lived and only protect against diseases to which the mom is already immune.
Immunizations are vaccinations (shots) that protect infants from very serious illnesses. Yes, the shots can be momentarily uncomfortable, but the discomfort is far preferable to contracting the disease. Side effects from an immunization can include temporary crankiness, slight fever or soreness or swelling at the site of the shot. Other problems are very rare.
The diseases that immunizations protect against are serious and possibly deadly. Many of us can recall pre-immunization polio cases in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Thanks to the polio vaccine, polio is all but gone, except in a few third world countries.
If your child were to get one of the childhood diseases listed below, she or he could suffer from fever, rashes, coughs, sore throats, hearing loss, blindness, crippling, brain damage and/or death.
Infant immunizations are given beginning at birth to protect babies from hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and pneumococcal disease. At six months babies become eligible for seasonal influenza vaccine and at one year, immunizations are given for mumps, measles, rubella and chickenpox.
It's not your imagination - there are more immunizations now than there were even just a few years ago. The reason is that science has advanced to protect babies from more diseases than ever before.
Some vaccines are combined, and these are just as effective as when given individually. Infant vaccinations are given in a series; that is, multiple times in a sequence. For example, the hepatitis B vaccination is given between birth and 2 months; between 1 and 4 months; and again between 6 and 18 months. It is important for the child to receive the entire series.
Immunization vaccinations work because they contain a dead or weakened form of the disease which, while too weak to give the infant the disease, is strong enough to trick the body into developing antibodies. The body "thinks" it had the disease, which protects it if exposure to that disease happens.
Q: Why get vaccinations for diseases that hardly exist in this country?
A: Thanks to vaccines, most diseases prevented by vaccines are no longer common in this country. Yet even the few cases we have in the U.S. could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases if we stopped vaccinating. It's not uncommon to have measles outbreaks, whooping cough outbreaks, chickenpox outbreaks and other disease outbreaks when vaccination rates drop. Kids that are not fully vaccinated can become seriously sick and spread it through a community.
Q: I heard that some vaccines cause autism. Is this true?
A: No. Scientific studies and reviews have found no relationship between vaccines and autism. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine also agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children recognized to have autism. There is no proven association between autism and childhood vaccines.
Your child's vaccination also helps protect others. Some children cannot be vaccinated because of illness or allergies. They depend on others to keep them safe. If the child's peers and the people they come in contact with are vaccinated, they can't spread the disease to the child.
Vaccination is one of the most important public health and safety measures of our time. If you have concerns or questions about vaccinating your child, talk with your doctor.
A few important things to remember are:
• If you have fallen behind on your baby's immunization schedule, it is possible to catch up.
• Keep a record of all shots.
• You should always read the Vaccination Information Sheet for each shot provided by your healthcare professional.
• It's all about Public Health.
IS THIS WEEK
When: Special Clinic Hours 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Call: 775- 887-2195 for an appointment
Carson City Health Department Clinic
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, by appointment
Thursday is Immunization Day
WHEN: 8:30-11:30 a.m.; 1-4:30 p.m.
No appointment needed
National Park Week is April 15-27. Entrance fees to all 392 National Parks are waived this week!
• Pam Graber is the public information officer for the Carson City Health and Human Services. You can e-mail her at email@example.com