Health Beat: Infant immunizations

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Held by his mother, this infant is receiving an intramuscular immunization in his left thigh muscle, which was being administered by a nurse who was stabilizing the injection site with her palm. (Judy Schmidt ~ CDC)

Immunization is one of the most important public health interventions in history. It has saved millions of lives over the years and prevented hundreds of millions of cases of disease.

Infants and young children need to be vaccinated because the diseases prevented by vaccination can strike at an early age. Also, these diseases can be far more serious or common among infants or young children. For example, of the children under 6 months of age who get whooping cough (pertussis), 72 percent must be hospitalized, and about 84 percent of all deaths from pertussis are among children younger than 6 months of age.

Immunization is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their children's health. Today, we can protect children younger than 2 years old from 14 serious diseases:

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (bacterial meningitis), diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumococcal disease, polio, rubella (German measles), tetanus (lockjaw), rotavirus and varicella (chickenpox).

At least one vaccine is needed for each of these diseases, and for some diseases several doses are required for the best protection. Several "combination vaccines" exist in which multiple vaccines are given in a single shot, reducing the number of shots needed.

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