Written by Dr. Jenny Shih and Rena Mei
Vaccines are one of the most successful medical advances of all time. Many of the diseases that vaccines prevent today are nearly or entirely eliminated in the United States. To promote the importance and achievements of vaccines, especially in protecting the health of infants and children, the U.S. declared an annual National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) every April.
Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective. They are an important step in protecting yourself and the people around you from harmful diseases––ones that are especially serious for infants and young children. This past year, a nationwide measles outbreak reminded the public of how important it is to get the recommended childhood vaccines. Measles has been largely reduced in the United States due to the measles vaccine. However, if even just one person has it, it can spread quickly to those who are not vaccinated against it. By following the recommended immunization schedule, parents can help protect their children from many serious and life threatening illnesses.
Hepatitis B is a very common disease among Asian Americans, and so this recommended vaccine is particularly important for our community. The hepatitis B vaccine requires three doses. The first dose is recommended at birth to prevent mother-to-infant transmission or transmission from others living with hepatitis B in the home. Left untreated, nearly 1 in 4 people living with hepatitis B develop serious liver problems, even liver cancer. Most don’t know they are infected, since people can live with hepatitis B for decades without having any symptoms or feeling sick. All mothers, whether or not they have hepatitis B, should have their babies vaccinated against this harmful disease. Read more about protecting your baby from hepatitis B here.
Immunizations are a shared public responsibility. Families, healthcare providers, and public health officials need to work together to prevent these harmful diseases and eliminate them from our communities. Parents play an important role by working with pediatricians to keep their children up-to-date on their immunizations. The CDC has great resources for parents to stay on track with recommended immunizations. You can view the 2015 recommended vaccinations here, and keep track of immunizations and milestones with this sheet.
By taking preventive measures, we can protect not only our children, but the entire community from infectious diseases.
Dr. Jenny Shih is a pediatrician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She received her medical degree and residency training from the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Shih is board-certified in pediatrics. Rena Mei is a health educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Evolutionary Biology and Chemistry from Harvard University.