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Thursday, June 24, 2021

National Infant Immunization Week: How early childhood vaccines encourage a healthy life

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In addition to the COVID-related battle the world is facing, Indiana continues to also fight for the health of Hoosier children.

April 24-May 1 was National Infant Immunization Week, and this year it is more crucial than ever to make sure your children are properly vaccinated. There has been a significant drop in childhood vaccinations due to the pandemic as families chose to stay home and avoid doctor’s offices. Although social distancing is appropriate, we can’t lose sight of the need to prevent other deadly illnesses.

Vaccines are crucial to keeping your baby healthy and helping your child fight off diseases that can be passed from person to person. There are currently 19 conditions that previously caused serious illness or death that are now preventable thanks to modern medicine and vaccination.

Parents must not overlook the importance of properly vaccinating their child in their first two years of life. Infants are prone to many viruses in their first year that affect their health and well-being. During their first year, they should be vaccinated for 14 serious diseases on a specific timeline, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The reality is that going to visit a doctor now is very safe as there are many safety protocols in place. These crucial immunizations are as accessible as ever, and their importance to a child’s health and well-being should not be underestimated.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines essentially expose the body to harmless parts of viruses so the body can recognize it and create antibodies. Once exposed to a germ, the body has the defense mechanisms to fight it. When children get vaccinated, they are able to create antibodies without ever being infected and are protected from the serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences from contracting the virus.

Are there risks?

Despite the importance of vaccines, there continues to be concern among parents about their safety. It can be challenging to decipher between what information is accurate and what’s not. All available vaccines have gone through a rigorous process to prove they are both safe and effective and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is also a vaccine registry where both patients and providers can document adverse effects to continue to monitor vaccine safety on an ongoing basis.

A local reaction can be possible and allergic reactions are always possible; however, the consequences are very minor. One longstanding concern related to vaccines is their link to autism. The diagnosis of autism often occurs around the time of childhood vaccination, causing people to believe that they are related. In addition, one research study conducted many years ago linked vaccination and autism; however, a later review of that study revealed concerns as to how the study was conducted and it has since been debunked. There have since been numerous studies that prove that there is no link to autism, including a 2013 CDC study. The concern regarding autism persists despite evidence to the contrary.

How can a health care provider assist families with getting their infant vaccinated?

CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has care management staff that is there for one-on-one parent support to help members with needs, connect them with services and provide educational resources. 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.

It’s important to have your child vaccinated not only to protect your baby but every other child they interact with. Children are susceptible to deadly diseases even in their first year of life if not properly vaccinated. CareSource recognizes the importance of vaccinations and provides coverage for all childhood and adult vaccinations. For more information about our services offered in Indiana, visit www.caresource.com

Dr. Cameual Wright is vice president and market chief medical officer for CareSource.

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