Infant Immunization Week Encourages Babies' First Shots
Vaccine requirements start with day care enrollment.
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is a yearly observance highlighting the importance of protecting children 2 years and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children stay on track with their well-child appointments and routine vaccinations. On-time vaccination is critical to provide protection against potentially life-threatening diseases.
By Jean Yaeger
National Infant Immunization Week amplifies a key point: Vaccines safely and effectively protect babies against various diseases.
This campaign of awareness, which runs April 24-30, emphasizes the proven track record of shots that fight vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, Hepatitis B and measles. Who benefits when an infant is immunized? The child, their family and the wider community.
Parents should know that vaccines work to stop the spread of infectious diseases at home, in daycare and school settings, and in the general population. Certain shots are needed before kids enter kindergarten, seventh grade and college. But babies and toddlers need shots too before they can be enrolled in a child care center or pre-kindergarten program.
In order to start or stay in daycare in Texas, state law requires proof of up-to-date records for eight vaccines, including periodic booster shots. Regular visits to the pediatrician’s office can help children and teens stay on track for their vaccines – or get caught up if they’re behind.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) ensures compliance during licensing visits by checking the immunization records that the daycare centers keep for each child. Records should include the child’s name, the date the vaccine was received (month, day and year), the provider’s initials or stamp to validate, and clinic contact information.
A conscientious exemption affidavit should be submitted if a child is following an alternative vaccine schedule. According to DSHS rules, a current record or exemption must be on file; otherwise, the child in daycare is considered “vaccine delinquent.”
The DSHS website lists the 2022-2023 minimum vaccine requirements in a chart, in English and Spanish. The chart covers:
- DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) – doses by 3 months, 5 months, 7 months and 19 months
- Polio – doses by 3 months, 5 months and 19 months
- HepB (Hepatitis B) – doses by 3 months, 5 months and 19 months
- Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) – doses by 3 months, 5 months and 16 months
- PCV (Pneumococcal conjugate) – doses by 3 months, 5 months, 7 months and 16 months
- MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella) – one dose by 16 months
- Varicella (Chickenpox) – one dose by 16 months
- HepA (Hepatitis A) – doses by 25 months and 43 months
Flu and rotavirus vaccines are not required but may be recommended by the child’s health care provider.
Christina Sherrod, M.D. and the staff at Cook Children’s Pediatrics Southlake will make copies of the patient’s vaccine record and also fill out a health statement form for the daycare if requested. Dr. Sherrod said the vaccine requirements serve as a safety net to help families know when to bring in their babies and toddlers for shots. “That’s the practical side of it,” she said.
For instance … Kids' Place, located across the street from Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, sends reminder notifications to parents whenever a child is due for their next vaccines.
But the ultimate goal is preventing an outbreak of disease. “If you have a daycare full of 400 kids, and fewer than 95% are vaccinated against measles, that could easily lead to an outbreak in the daycare and in the community,” Dr. Sherrod said.
At Cook Children’s neighborhood clinics across Fort Worth and nearby cities, the medical teams also promote immunizations as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Adhering to this vaccine schedule is the best way to protect children and keep them healthy,” said Sharhonda Ansley, M.D. at Cook Children’s Neighborhood Clinic Northside. “By keeping up with their child’s regular checkup visits, parents will help ensure they are prepared for daycare and kindergarten. And the healthier we will all be!”
Dr. Ansley and Dr. Sherrod both pointed out that the symptoms of some diseases can be mild for some patients but serious or even fatal for babies.
Your Questions Answered
How do vaccines work? Dr. Sherrod puts it this way: “A vaccine injects a protein or molecule into your body that tricks the immune system to make your body think you're getting that disease. It makes your immune system ramp up and build antibodies and memory T cells to prevent getting ill in case you're exposed to the real disease later on.”
What's it like to immunize an infant? Some vaccines are given orally. If it’s an injection, the needle goes into the thigh, and a Band-Aid is applied. The baby usually cries. “You can't warn a baby that the shot is coming, and you can't explain to them why,” Dr. Sherrod said. “The truth is they do really well and they usually calm down very quickly.”
What are some tips to help with discomfort afterward? Breastfeeding or a bottle can be soothing. Don’t give Tylenol right away. “Usually if the baby needs Tylenol, it's that evening or maybe even the next day. I tell parents to go home and see how their baby does. A lot of babies get kind of sleepy the day after their shots. If they have a fever and they're fussy, go ahead and give them Tylenol. But a lot of babies never need it. They just go home, maybe sleep a little bit more, and are fine.”
Anything else? The bacteria that might cause an ear infection or sinus infection in an older child can cause brain damage or even death to a 2-month-old, whose immune system is more immature. Vaccines benefit the babies who receive them as well as the bigger picture of public health in our country. “It's a privilege that we have these vaccines,” Dr. Sherrod said. “As a nation, we really don't know how bad it can be without these vaccines. I just hope enough people keep getting them that we can continue to see that disease prevention.”
It can be hard to separate the facts from the fears when it comes to immunization. Cook Children’s wants to clear up some of the confusion and to help parents make wise decisions based off trustworthy information. Read more here: Vaccine and Immunization (cookchildrens.org)
Cook Children’s offers more than 40 locations in North Texas that provide vaccinations, physicals, screenings, treatment for minor injuries, and other services. To find a convenient pediatric office or neighborhood clinic: Primary Care Offices/Neighborhood Clinics (cookchildrens.org)