9 National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities have contin- ued to use the month each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. NIAM is sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC). For more information on the observance, visit NPHIC’s NIAM website. Making the Vaccine Decision As a parent, you want to protect your little one from harm. Before you decide to vaccinate your baby, you may wish to know more about: • How vaccines work • How vaccines work with your baby’s immune system • Vaccine side effects/risks • Vaccine ingredients • Vaccine safety How Vaccines Prevent Diseases The diseases vaccines prevent can be dangerous, or even deadly. Vaccines reduce your child’s risk of infection by working with their body’s natural defenses to help them safely develop immunity to disease. Vaccines and Your Child’s Immune System As a parent, you may get upset or concerned when you watch your baby get 3 or 4 shots during a doctor’s visit. But, all of those shots add up to protec- tion for your baby against 14 infectious diseases. Young babies can get very ill from vaccine-preventable diseases. Although children continue to get several vaccines up to their second birthday, these vaccines do not over- load the immune system. Every day, your healthy baby’s immune system successfully fights off thousands of antigens – the parts of germs that cause their immune system to respond. The antigens in vaccines come from weakened or killed germs so they cannot cause serious illness. Even if your child receives several vaccines in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny amount of antigens compared to the antigens your baby encounters every day. Vaccine Side Effects/Risks Like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. The most common side effects are mild. On the other hand, many vaccine-preventable disease symptoms can be serious, or even deadly. Even though many of these diseases are rare in this country, they still occur around the world. Unvaccinated U.S. citizens who travel abroad can bring these diseases to the U.S., putting unvaccinated children at risk. Vaccine Ingredients Vaccines contain ingredients, called antigens, which cause the body to develop immunity. Vaccines also contain very small amounts of other ingredients. All ingredients either help make the vaccine, or ensure the vaccine is safe and effective. Ensuring Vaccine Safety The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety system ensures vaccines are as safe as possible. In fact, currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Safety monitoring begins with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who ensures the safety, effectiveness, and availability of vaccines for the United States. Before the FDA approves a vaccine for use by the public, highly trained FDA scientists and doctors evaluate the results of studies on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. FDA also inspects the sites where vaccines are made to make sure they follow strict manufacturing guidelines. “It’s natural you have questions about your child’s vaccines. There are many myths about vaccines. As a parent myself, I found it helpful researching both sides of the coin. My decision to vaccinate my children was based on several factors; first being I was vaccinated as a child. More importantly though I weighed the benefit against the risk and really saw more of a benefit to the wellbeing of my children’s overall health” Talia Artist, parent of three growing sons ranging in ages from 6 to 22 years old. T or F: Vaccines are not safe. False. Vaccines are very safe. The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. Currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Millions of children safely receive vac- cines each year. The most common side effects are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site. T or F: Side effects to vaccines are rare. True. Vaccines, like any medication, may cause some side effects. Most of these side effects are very minor, like soreness where the shot was given, fussiness, or a low-grade fever. These side effects typically only last a couple of days and are treatable. For example, you can apply a cool, wet washcloth on the sore area to ease discomfort. Serious reactions are very rare. However, if your child experiences any reactions that concern you, call the doctor’s office. T or F: There a link between vaccines and autism. False. Scientific studies and reviews continue to show no relationship between vaccines and autism. Some people have suggested that thimerosal (a compound that contains mercury) in vaccines given to infants and young children might be a cause of autism. Others have sug- gested that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine may be linked to autism. However, numerous scientists and researchers have stud- ied and continue to study the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, and reach the same conclusion: there is no link between MMR vaccine or thimerosal and autism. T or F: Vaccines will overload my baby’s immune system. False. Vaccines do not overload the immune sys- tem. Every day, a healthy baby’s immune system successfully fights off thousands of germs. Anti- gens are parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work to build antibodies, which fight off diseases. The antigens in vaccines come from the germs themselves, but the germs are weakened or killed so they cannot cause serious illness. Even if babies receive several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens they encounter every day in their environment. Vaccines give your child the antibodies they need to fight off serious vaccine-preventable diseases. T or F: You can wait until your child goes to school to catch up on immunizations False. Before entering school, young children can be exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases from parents and other adults, brothers and sisters, on a plane, at child care, or even at the grocery store. Children under age 5 are especially susceptible to diseases because their immune systems have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infec- tion. Don’t wait to protect your baby and risk getting these diseases when he or she needs protection now. Is it true? The 5 most common myths about childhood vaccines: FAM HEALTH