• By Deb Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Importance of childhood vaccines

May 28, 2018

a young child in a t-shirt getting a vaccination, flu shot

Childhood immunizations are an important part of ensuring people are protected from life-threatening infectious diseases. "We know that we have vaccine-preventable diseases that we’ve dramatically reduced with the routine vaccines that we provide children and adults," says Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic.

"In fact, we can measure the benefits in billions of dollars and in lives saved and hospitalizations prevented, office visits prevented. Vaccinations are providing a huge benefit to the public. In fact, on review of all of the public health initiatives over the 20thcentury, vaccines came in as No. 1 of all the public health interventions in terms of making a difference and improving our lives," says Dr. Jacobson.

Watch: Dr. Robert Jacobson talks about childhood vaccines.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites are in the downloads.

For those who express concern about vaccine safety, Dr. Jacobson says, "I tell people we should be very confident in our vaccines. In fact, of the medications I prescribe — of all the things I do in medicine — vaccines actually have been studied in more people and have been proven to have a higher safety record than anything else, including the antibiotics I use to treat infections, the anti-hypertensives my colleagues use to treat high blood pressure."

Dr. Jacobson says he meets with parents who have expressed concerns about vaccines. "The great thing about parents who are hesitant about vaccines is they want the same thing I want. They want that child to be as healthy as possible, free from injury and disease, and safe."

And, Dr. Jacobson says he's learned it's not always what one thinks. "Sometimes they think their child is not at risk for the disease. Sometimes they think the disease is no longer in circulation. Sometimes they think that they already got the vaccine or they’re protected by something else that they’re doing."

Children and adults need routine immunizations. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the most up-to-date vaccine schedule recommendations.

The CDC sets the immunization schedule as recommended by the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices. Members of the committee include those with expertise in vaccinology, immunology, pediatrics, internal medicine, nursing, family medicine, virology, public health, infectious diseases, and preventive medicine. One member is a consumer representative who provides perspectives on the social and community aspects of vaccination.