Immunization prevents an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The administration of vaccines has increased significantly over the last century, and developments in the field continue to improve and strengthen them. It’s important for every individual to understand the different types of vaccines and stay aware of recommendations for immunizations put forth by public health organizations.
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Immunization Basics: Definition, Types, and Statistics
The WHO defines immunization as “the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine.”
Vaccinations in the U.S.
Among kindergarteners enrolled in the 2017-19 school year, the median vaccination coverage for the state-required dosage series for the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine was 95.1%, based on estimates from 49 states and the District of Columbia. In 2017, 59.7% of children 19 to 35 months received a hepatitis A vaccination. 73.2% of this age range received a rotavirus vaccination, and 70.4% received a combined 7-vaccine series. It was also determined that 2.2% of kindergartners had an exemption from vaccines. Overall, vaccination rates are lower among uninsured and Medicaid-insured children.
Types of Vaccinations
Different vaccines fight disease differently. For instance, live attenuated vaccines use a weakened form of the disease-causing pathogen to protect against measles, chicken pox, and yellow fever. Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines use a specific part of the pathogen to combat hepatitis B, whooping cough, and shingles. Toxoid vaccines use a toxin produced by the pathogen to guard against diphtheria and tetanus. Inactivated vaccines use a killed form of the pathogen to protect against the flu, polio, and rabies.
Immunization or Vaccine Requirements for Children
More and more vaccines are being created to protect children from diseases. It can be difficult to keep up with the requirements, but parents can access the immunization schedule provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay up to date.
The CDC’s immunization schedule for children breaks down into two age brackets: birth to 15 months, and 18 months to 18 years.
The immunization schedule for the birth to 15 month range include 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine, 2 doses of rotavirus vaccine, 4 doses of DTaP vaccine, 4 doses of haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, 4 doses of pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13) vaccine, 3 doses of inactivated poliovirus (IPV) vaccine, 2 doses of influenza (IIV or LAIV) vaccine, 1 dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, a 2-dose series of the hepatitis A (HepA) vaccine, and 1 dose of varicella (VAR) vaccine.
The immunization schedule for the 18 month to 18 year range include a 2-dose series of the RV1 rotavirus vaccine, a 3-dose series of the RV5 rotavirus vaccine, 1-2 doses of DTaP vaccine, 2 doses of IPV vaccine, 2 annual doses of the IIV or LAIV vaccine, and 1 dose of the MMR, VAR, and meningococcal vaccines.
Parents can also reference CDC’s Birth to 18 Years Immunization Schedule to see the full list of immunizations for their children.
Tips for Keeping Track of Child Vaccinations
One of the ways parents can track vaccinations is to contact their doctor’s office to request a copy of their child’s immunization records. They can also keep a clearly marked file at home to store immunization records. Additionally, parents can utilize the CDC’s SchoolVaxView tool to remain updated on school vaccination requirements and state exemptions. Finally, they can download the CDC mobile app for more information and tools to track vaccinations.
Keeping Up with Developments in Immunizations
Various government agencies and medical organizations work to educate the public about immunization. Information regarding requirements, guidelines, and the latest research can be found online.
Information and Resources for Parents
Parents can access information from the American Academy of Pediatrics by visiting Healthychildren.org. While there, they can also access information regarding up-to-date immunization schedules, reduced rates of diseases, adult immunizations, chickenpox vaccinations, and the importance of vaccines.
The CDC also offers a wealth of vaccine-related information. Parents can learn about who should receive the vaccine and when it should be administered and access other pertinent materials, such as fact sheets on diseases and vaccines, tips for a less stressful shot visit, seasonal flu information, and how to evaluate online vaccine info.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Vaccines.gov) allow parents to access information from the federal government. Here, parents can access information about vaccines, immunizations, and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines have helped dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by measles and other infectious diseases. The continued vaccination of children will help protect them from life-threatening diseases and keep them healthy. Parents can make use of online resources to keep up with vaccination requirements.