Vaccination is a demonstrative example of how new technologies can save millions of lives. The first vaccine was invented by Edward Jenner more than 200 years ago, and now different vaccines are given to children throughout the country against 14 dreadful diseases (Bloom & Lambert, 2016). However, vaccination of newborns is a controversial subject because of the specificity of their immune system development: it depends on maternal antibodies during the first half of a year after birth. According to Niewiesk (2014), “by most estimates children will not be protected for more than 6 months of life whereas full immunological maturity seems to be accomplished only after 12 months” (para. 37). Consequently, reduced immunogenicity creates a range of obstacles to the implementation of adequate preventive measures, but a scientific approach can help recognize a true benefit despite fears circulating among parents.
A general vaccination mechanism starts with post-injection inflammation, which in response to antigens containing in a vaccine facilitates the creation of specific antibodies that induce immune protection. A common critique of vaccination procedures relates to the fact that most vaccines administered today are based on technologies developed a century ago. However, in the recent decades, the progress in microbiology allowed fighting against polio, hepatitis A, mumps, rubella, measles, rotavirus, varicella, and also against some strains of pneumococcus and meningococcus (Delany, Rappuoli, & De Gregorio, 2014). For example, “recombinant technologies allowed the production of vaccines for pathogens unable to be grown in vitro” (Di Pasquale, Preiss, Da Silva, & Garçon, 2015, p. 322). Due to discoveries in genetic engineering, new tools have been recently developed for preventing HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, dengue, and Staphylococcus aureus.
In the US, vaccination in infants and children helps overcome a range of diseases. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program began in 1994 and provided vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, and rubella (Whitney, Zhou, Singleton, & Schuchat, 2014). Later the VFC vaccination coverage included varicella, hepatitis A, pneumococcal disease, and rotavirus. As a result, the program immunization prevented 322 million illnesses and 21 million hospitalizations (Whitney et al., 2014, p. 352). Underestimating the significance of such an outcome is hard and meaningless.
Consequently, the incidence of the diseases listed above showed a dramatic decline. The most extensive improvement displayed measles incidence with 22.2% of cases prevented per year, then rubella and polio with 16.2% and 15.3% of cases respectively (Panhuis et al., 2013, p. 2156). In the next five years, there was a 95% reduction in measles rates, while polio, diphtheria, and pertussis reached their milestones in 8, 19 and 17 years respectively (Panhuis et al., 2013, p. 2156). Such outcomes undoubtedly could be among the most significant achievements in the history of medicine.
Despite such a profound revolution in health care, many parents display concerns over their children vaccination. These worries are not entirely groundless; there are some so-called “side effects” and accidents. A study executed by McNeil et al. (2016) demonstrated that there is an actual risk of allergic reactions. The results showed that “the rate of anaphylaxis was 1.31 (95% CI, 0.90-1.84) per million vaccine doses” (McNeil et al., 2016, para. 4). The specified number was calculated for the vaccines administered against influenza. The most common period for symptoms to appear was from 30 to 120 minutes, then from 2 to less than 4 hours (McNeil et al., 2016). The authors concluded that the risk of anaphylaxis after vaccination in all age groups was low.
A research paper by Duffy et al. (2016) investigated the risk of febrile seizure (FS) after vaccination in infants and toddlers. The findings suggested that the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV3) and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) could cause an FS, but the absolute incidence rate ratio was small and was present independently only for PCV 7-valent vaccine (Duffy et al., 2016). However, the administration of IIV3 on the same day as PCV increased the risk of FS. The authors recommended a separate procedure for such vaccination. A similar study by Yih et al. (2014) revealed a potential risk of intussusceptions after a second-generation rotavirus RotaTeq (RV5) and Rotarix (RV1) vaccines were given to infants. However, the results were relatively small; they should be viewed in the context of general vaccination benefits.
Therefore, parents’ fears could not be simply ignored; the problem of children safety is a major concern in the US. However, when looking at research evidence objectively, it appears that the low probability of health negative effects in newborns is much less significant than the definite advantage of providing children with immunization opportunities. A possible solution does not include a complete rejection of any vaccination. Parents’ concerns could be addressed with appropriate information coming from family physicians or other medical workers. A parent should be able to express his or her concerns to a trusted professional that can help dispel fears. Ultimately, any parent wants their child to be healthy and live a long disease-free life, and vaccination was created precisely for this purpose. A recommendation for parents should include a suggestion to investigate credible resources, talk to their physicians, and accordingly vaccinate their children.
Bloom, B. R., & Lambert, P. H. (Eds.). (2016). The vaccine book (2nd ed.). London, UK: Academic Press.
Delany, I., Rappuoli, R., & De Gregorio, E. (2014). Vaccines for the 21st century. EMBO Molecular Medicine, 6(6), 708-720. Web.
Di Pasquale, A., Preiss, S., Da Silva, F. T., & Garçon, N. (2015). Vaccine adjuvants: From 1920 to 2015 and beyond. Vaccines, 3(2), 320-343. Web.
Duffy, J., Weintraub, E., Hambidge, S. J., Jackson, L. A., Kharbanda, E. O., Klein, N. P., … DeStefano, F. (2016). Febrile seizure risk after vaccination in children 6 to 23 months. Pediatrics, 138(1), 1-10. Web.
McNeil, M. M., Weintraub, E. S., Duffy, J., Sukumaran, L., Jacobsen, S. J., Klein, N. P., … DeStefano, F. (2016). Risk of anaphylaxis after vaccination in children and adults. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 137(3), 868-878. Web.
Niewiesk, S. (2014). Maternal antibodies: Clinical significance, mechanism of interference with immune responses, and possible vaccination strategies. Frontiers in Immunology. Web.
Panhuis, W. G., Grefenstette, J., Jung, S. Y., Chok, N. S., Cross, A., Lee, B. Y., … Burke, D. S. (2013). Contagious diseases in the United States from 1888 to the present. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369(22), 2152-2158. Web.
Whitney, C. G., Zhou, F., Singleton, J., & Schuchat, A. (2014). Benefits from immunization during the Vaccines for Children program era – United States, 1994-2013. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(16), 352–355. Web.
Yih, K., Lieu, T. A., Kulldorff, M., Martin, D., McMahill-Walraven, C. N., Platt, R., … Nguyen, M. (2014). Intussusception risk after rotavirus vaccination in U.S. infants. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(6), 503-512. Web.