Infant vaccine safeguards promoted during National Immunization Week

April 21-28 is National Infant Immunization Week

April 26, 2018

This article was originally published in Healio.

Vaccination is a pivotal step toward the prevention communicable diseases in infants as they grow; however, WHO and UNICEF estimate that 12.9 million infants around the world did not receive any immunizations in 2016. This statistic leaves approximately one in 10 children aged 2 years or younger at risk for 14 potentially life-threatening diseases.

Since 1994, the CDC has endorsed vaccination of children in this age group during National Infant Immunization Week. This year’s observance is held from April 21 to 28 and is celebrated in conjunction with World Immunization Week.

The CDC notes that in one birth cohort, immunizing infants prevented 381 million cases of illness, 24.5 million pediatric hospitalizations and 855,000 deaths over these children’s lifetime. Furthermore, infant immunizations provide a significant cost savings, with a net savings estimated at $360 billion in direct costs and $1.65 trillion in societal costs.

To highlight the additional benefits of infant immunization during National Infant Immunization week, Infectious Diseases in Children has compiled a list of the most recent research and statistics pertaining to childhood infectious diseases and their prevention.

Children with autism, their siblings less likely to be completely vaccinated

Children who have been diagnosed with ASD and their younger siblings are significantly less likely to be completely vaccinated, with the greatest rates of undervaccination observed in siblings between 1 to 11 months and 1 to 2 years, according to findings published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The etiology of autism spectrum disorder is unknown for the vast majority of cases; however, study findings suggest that both genetic and environmental factors have a role,” Ousseny Zerbo, PhD, from the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, and colleagues wrote. “Despite numerous scientific studies reporting no association between childhood vaccination and ASD, there remain concerns about such a connection from some of the public.”

Early exposure to multiple vaccines not linked to increased infection risk

Infants who were exposed to multiple vaccine antigens during the childhood immunization schedule exhibited no increased risk for additional infectious diseases not targeted by the vaccines, according to published study results in JAMA.

“Some parents are concerned that multiple vaccines in early childhood could damage their child’s immune system, making them more susceptible to future infections,” Jason Glanz, PhD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research, said in a press release. “Parents have genuine concerns about their children’s safety as related to vaccination.”

Child, teen immunization schedule revised for 2018

Updated child and adolescent immunization schedules for 2018 have been approved, with changes made to catch-up schedules for vaccination and removal of unavailable vaccines, according to a policy statement issued by the AAP.

“The recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedules for 2018 have been approved by the AAP, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the CDC, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,” Carrie L. Byington, MD, FAAP, chairperson of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, and colleagues wrote. “The schedules are revised annually to reflect current recommendations for the use of vaccines licensed by the U.S. FDA.”

Patient reminders improve child, teen, adult vaccination rates

The use of patient recalls and reminders for childhood, adolescent and adult vaccinations — including telephone calls, postcards and text messages —improves vaccination rates within all age groups, according to findings published in the Cochrane Library.

“The evidence shows that reminding people to have vaccinations increases the number of people who receive vaccinations,” Julie C. Jacobson Vann, PhD, MS, RN, from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, said in a press release. “All types of patient reminder and recall are likely to be effective, and reminding people over the telephone was most effective. Even a small effect of patient reminders and recalls, when scaled to a whole population, could have a large beneficial effect on public health.”

Pertussis increase attributed to waning immunity

Since the 1940s, the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine has been widely available to combat the transmission and development of pertussis — also known as whooping cough. Yet, despite the availability of this immunization, rates of this bacterial infection have been increasing since the 1990s. The most recent spike was observed in 2012, with the CDC receiving 48,277 reports of illness in the United States.

However, that number is likely to be underestimated. Although the disease is most frequently reported in infants and young children, many cases are misdiagnosed or left untreated because of the atypical presentation in vaccinated adolescents and adults, according to a review published in American Family Physician. Another study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases suggests that the global burden of pertussis is estimated at 24.1 million cases, causing 160,700 deaths in children aged younger than 5 years globally.

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