Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to children five years of age and older, there is a bigger discussion about the ideal time to get your child’s immunizations. April 25 marks the start of National Infant Immunization Week – a great opportunity for all people, especially parents, to learn more about the importance of early childhood immunization.

Why is early childhood vaccination important?

Research shows that getting your infant vaccinated in their first year is imperative, as they are more prone to viruses that can affect their health and well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants should be vaccinated for 14 serious diseases, on a specific timeline, within their first year. While it is normal for new parents to have questions surrounding vaccines, properly vaccinating your child in their infancy is ever important and should not be overlooked.

When a child gets vaccinated, they create antibodies without ever having to be infected. If a parent chooses to wait to have their child vaccinated until adulthood, they run the risk of their child being exposed to a virus that their immune system cannot defend against. Additionally, their child won’t be protected from the serious, sometimes life-threatening, consequences from contracting certain viruses.

What do we know about vaccines, and do they work?

Vaccines are a crucial step in keeping your baby healthy and helping your child fight off disease. A vaccine works by exposing the body to harmless parts of viruses, so that it may recognize the disease, which then creates the antibodies, or defense mechanisms, to fight it. Vaccines have been a part of our world for centuries. In fact, there are currently 19 conditions that once caused serious illness or death that are now preventable thanks to modern vaccinations. To put it in short, vaccines save lives.

Are early childhood vaccinations safe?

One of the biggest concerns new parents have when getting their child vaccinated is the short- or long-term risks of immunization. Social media and the spread of misinformation have worsened parents’ worries and have contributed to many myths surrounding the safety of early childhood vaccination. The truth is all vaccines must go through a rigorous process to prove they are both safe and effective before becoming available to the public. Additionally, they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Concern about the link between vaccines and autism is based on one study, which has since been disproven. There have been numerous studies that prove there is no connection between vaccines and autism, including a 2013 study from the CDC.

More recently, we have seen hesitation towards the COVID-19 vaccine for young children due to misinformation. A report debunking some of these myths from the CDC confirms the safety of the vaccine, noting that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be over 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 through 11 years. This is imperative, considering the CDC also found that COVID-19 ranks as one of the top 10 causes of death for children ages 5 through 11 years. Although there is always a possibility of a local or allergic reaction when getting your child vaccinated, the consequences are very minor. If a parent is heavily concerned about vaccinations, there is a vaccine registry in which both patients and providers can document adverse effects to continue to monitor vaccine safety on an ongoing basis.

How can CareSource assist with infant vaccination?

CareSource is a nonprofit health plan that is dedicated to helping our community receive the support they need. To help your child receive proper immunizations, CareSource offers a Babies First incentive program that incentivizes prenatal visits, well child visits, childhood vaccines and lead testing with reward dollars. We work closely with providers to track which members’ infants still require vaccines, and we work with them as well as our members to encourage vaccination. Our care management staff recognizes the importance of vaccines and is available for one-on-one parent support to help members with needs, connect them with services, and provide educational resources.

Getting your infant vaccinated is vital to protect your child and every other child who they interact with.