By Theresa Flint Rodgers, DNP, and Pamela H. Bryant, DNP
No parent wants to see their child wince in pain or hear their baby cry. Yet enduring the undesirable for just a minute – as the child is vaccinated – can save heartache down the road.
Most newborns receive their first vaccine before leaving the hospital. Then, they get a series of shots at well-child visits over the next few years.
Getting all the recommended vaccines according to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization keeps babies and children protected from infectious diseases, including common conditions such as hepatitis and HPV and less common conditions like polio, measles and mumps.
Vaccines Are Still Needed
Some parents think their child doesn’t need vaccine protection from less common diseases. “My child is at low risk because there’s not much of that disease around,” they think. But “out of sight, out of mind” is a dangerous mentality, especially when it comes to preventing disease.
After all, the uncommon vaccine-preventable diseases became uncommon because of widespread vaccination.
But when vaccines lag, outbreaks can occur. That’s what happened with the measles in 2014 and again in 2018. In 2014, the first cases were detected in California, but more than 660 people in 16 states, Mexico and Canada ended up getting sick. Nearly 350 people were infected in the 2018 outbreak. Even though measles had been considered eliminated, experts warned outbreaks could become more common if vaccination rates continue to decline.
Hesitation about vaccinating children also arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Questions about the development of new COVID-19 vaccines fueled broader mistrust about vaccine safety – even for shots that have been effectively used for decades. That concern has led some parents to question if they want their children to get any vaccines.
This is particularly alarming because pandemic disruptions caused millions of young children worldwide to fall behind on routine vaccines. Aside from being exposed to preventable illnesses, unvaccinated children can also encounter delays getting into school. Most districts require kids to be up to date on immunizations before enrolling in elementary school. Most colleges and universities have a similar requirement.
Making Up Missed Shots
This National Infant Immunization Week – April 24-30 – is more important than ever. Even though the week emphasizes vaccinations for infants, it’s important for parents to know that it’s not too late to get their children – no matter the age – caught up on missed shots.
Parents who have questions should consult their health care provider, county health department or a reputable internet source, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Getting fully vaccinated is a series of small actions that yield a huge benefit – for the individual and for the greater community. Skipping shots isn’t worth the risk.
Theresa Flint Rodgers, DNP, CRNP-PC/AC, is a pulmonary nurse practitioner at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama. Pamela H. Bryant, DNP, CRNP-PC/AC is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a pediatric nurse practitioner at UAB Hospital Newborn Nursery. Both are members of the National Black Nurses Association, a member organization of the National Coalition for Infant Health.