Infant Immunization Week: Sharing is caring, but not when it comes to germs
Apr. 28, 2023
By Katie Minor
I’ve always been scared of getting shots. From required immunizations for school to yearly flu shots, I would dread the thought of those long, terrifying needles. Back when the COVID vaccine became available, my excitement was still weighed down by fear — even though the pain only lasted a second before it was over.
That’s why I have sympathy for those kids who cry at the doctor’s office. Immunizations are one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine, and they've helped to save countless lives over the years. But that fact doesn’t always alleviate needle anxiety, especially for kids.
Helping parents deal with nervous kids at the doctor’s office is just one reason National Infant Immunization Week — which started on Monday and goes through Sunday — exists. The most helpful thing you can do as a parent of a little one getting a shot? “Remain calm and reassuring,” says Jennifer Goldcamp, Nurse and Public Health Nursing Program Manager at MCHD.
Some parents — especially first-time ones — go into the first few doctor appointments with just as much anxiety as their little one. When you keep calm, you’re modeling the right behavior for your child.
Most importantly, by getting your child vaccinated, you're not only doing the best thing you can do to protect them from serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses, but you're also helping to prevent the spread of disease in your community.
And when it comes to our community in West Virginia, we face a particular hurdle: vaccines for toddlers.
“West Virginia leads the country in vaccines when kids go to school, but we’re near the bottom for toddlers,” Goldcamp said.
West Virginia is one of the few states that requires vaccines in school and does not offer any religious or philosophical exceptions, although there are a few medical exemptions. That means every child going to school faces less risk of getting sick or getting their classmates sick.
And of course, there are the vaccines given to babies shortly after birth. But in those few years after the child gets their first shots and before they go to school, parents often don’t return to the doctor to get follow-up vaccines — such as the second hepatitis A shot or booster shots that offer additional protection from disease. COVID-19 and flu shots are just as important for toddlers as well.
In Monongalia County, we're lucky to have access to a variety of vaccines that can help to keep our children healthy. Some of the vaccines that are recommended for infants and young children include:
Hepatitis B: This vaccine is usually given shortly after birth, and it helps to protect against the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver disease and liver cancer.
Rotavirus: This vaccine is given orally and helps to protect against rotavirus, which is a common cause of severe diarrhea in young children.
DTaP: This vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
Hib: This vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenza type b, which can cause serious infections such as meningitis.
PCV13: This vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease, which can cause infections such as pneumonia and meningitis.
IPV: This vaccine protects against polio, a disease that can cause paralysis and even death.
MMR: This vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Varicella: This vaccine protects against chickenpox, which can cause severe itching and scarring, as well as more serious complications in some cases.
It is now also recommended that infants who are at least 6 months old get the COVID-19 vaccine. You can get a detailed schedule from the CDC of recommended vaccines for children and infants here.
Getting your child vaccinated is a simple and effective way to protect their health and well-being. If you're unsure about which vaccines your child needs or when they should get them, don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider or our nurses at Monongalia County Health Department. We're here to help answer any questions you may have and ensure that your child is up-to-date on their vaccinations. Call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment.
Remember, vaccinations aren't just about protecting your own child — they're also about protecting the health of your community. By vaccinating your child, you're helping to prevent the spread of disease to others who may not be able to receive vaccines, such as infants who are too young or people with certain medical conditions.
So, let's celebrate Infant Immunization Week by spreading the word about the importance of vaccinating our little ones. Together, we can help to protect the health of our community and ensure a brighter, healthier future for the next generation.