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The importance of vaccines and the purpose of child immunization schedules: What you need to know

Most parents are familiar with the “childhood vaccination schedule” – a detailed plan for when children should get certain immunizations that help protect them from preventable diseases. But as the list of recommended vaccines has grown over the years, so too has the list of questions parents have about vaccinations and vaccination schedules.

You may wonder: Why are vaccines important? What is an immunization schedule and why is it essential? How is the immunization schedule for young children and adolescents determined? Do I need to stick to it? Or are there alternative vaccination schedules that I can follow for my child? And when are vaccinations not recommended for kids?

With the help of our immunization specialists, family medicine doctors, pediatricians and other team members, we help answer those questions and more – starting with why vaccinations are so important for kids.

Why childhood vaccinations are important

Vaccines help protect us and those around us from preventable diseases like tetanus, HPV, polio, measles, meningitis and whooping cough. How? By helping our bodies create immunity – which is the body’s way of preventing disease.

Childhood vaccinations are so important because young immune systems are more vulnerable to diseases and illnesses. If your child is exposed to a disease like measles for example, their immune system may not be strong enough to fight it off. And now that travel is easier and more common than ever, there’s an increased risk of exposure to diseases that are more prevalent outside of the United States.

Vaccines are made with disease antigens, which trigger your child’s immune system to produce antibodies and develop immunity – without getting sick.

Why we have immunization schedules in the U.S. and why it’s important to stick to them

Why and how immunization schedules were created

Immunization schedules for young children and adolescents are designed with kids’ young immune systems in mind, helping to protect them from preventable diseases as early and safely as possible. The schedules – created by top infectious disease experts and doctors – include 16 recommended vaccines, as well as dosages and timing from birth to 18 years old.

The first “harmonized” immunization schedule was released in the United States in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Today, the ACIP meets three times a year to review the latest scientific research and make any necessary changes to the vaccination schedule. The CDC officially sets the schedule based on ACIP’s recommendations, and the schedule is also approved by the AAP, AAFP and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Why it’s important to follow immunization schedules

Staying on schedule protects your child

Backed by scientific research, the timing and spacing of immunizations are set to work with a child’s immune system at specific ages and times. Vaccines not only prevent disease, they save lives.

While some parents wonder if the number of vaccines and doses kids receive can ever be too much for their bodies to handle, the short answer is: No. Extensive research has been done to ensure the safety of vaccines for young immune systems. Kids are exposed to germs (or antigens) every day. The amount that they’re exposed to by getting a vaccine is just a tiny fraction of the antigens they encounter daily.

Staying on schedule protects others

Immunizing helps to protect the health of our community – especially those who can’t be immunized, like children who are too young or those who can’t for medical reasons.

Staying on schedule can be a requirement

Oftentimes, daycares, schools and sports teams require proof of immunizations in order for your child to participate. Keeping up with their shots can help make sure they don’t miss out.

Is it time for your child’s next round of shots? Don’t delay.

Why we don’t recommend alternative vaccination schedules

Some parents wonder whether spacing out vaccinations or following an alternative vaccination schedule is an option. Unfortunately, there isn’t any scientific basis for alternative or delayed vaccine schedules. But more importantly, delaying vaccines means kids are more vulnerable for extended periods of time.

Exceptions to the “vaccination rule”

Parents often ask if there are any reasons to not vaccinate their child or to delay vaccination, and the answer is: Yes. There are times when some children should not get certain vaccines or they should wait.
For example, if you child has any severe, life-threatening allergy or if they’ve had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of certain vaccines, your child’s doctor may recommend not getting or delaying a specific vaccination. Or if your child is moderately or severely ill, your child’s doctor will likely advise you to wait on vaccinations until they recover.

It’s also important to know that every vaccine has its own guidelines on when to forgo or delay a vaccination. So, if you have questions about whether your child should or shouldn’t have specific vaccines, we strongly encourage you to talk with your child’s doctor.

Childhood immunizations and COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re making a huge effort to stay home or stay socially distanced when you need to go out. And you may be wondering whether it’s safe to bring your child into the clinic for their shots.

Now and always, the health and well-being of our patients is our top priority. We’ve taken steps to implement several additional safety measures to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading and make it safer for everyone to get care. Rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols at our clinics are just the beginning. Our team of infectious disease experts have been working tirelessly to help guide our work and ensure we’re following the best, most up-to-date safety protocols at all of our locations. We’ve also added care options like phone and video visits, so people can get the care they need while reducing the number of visitors in clinics.

Learn more about how we’re making it as easy, fast and safe as possible for children to get important immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t delay important childhood vaccinations

Vaccines help protect against preventable diseases – and vaccination schedules help make sure kids are protected at the right ages and right times. If you have any questions about vaccinating your child, talk with their doctor. They can talk with you about your child’s medical and immunization history, give you more information on specific vaccines and why they’re recommended, and listen to any concerns and answer any questions you may have.

If your child is due for their next round of shots or you need to get them caught up, make an appointment at your local HealthPartners or Park Nicollet clinic.

Is it time for your child’s next round of shots? Don’t delay.

 

Learn more at HealthPartners

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