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What is an Immunization Schedule?
Immunization, or also known as vaccination, is the most effective way of preventing highly contagious and infectious diseases. It is the most important aspect of taking care of yourself and your child’s health—it’s an effective and affordable option way to prevent diseases, healthcare costs, and most especially, up to three million deaths every year worldwide.
Ever since vaccines were introduced to the world, diseases like smallpox, tetanus, and polio, that used to kill or disable millions of people have either been eliminated or only occur on rare occasions. Cases of measles and diphtheria have also decreased by 99.9% because of the vaccines.
These are a few of the many examples of why immunization is important especially among children under five years old. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical associations push for vaccination and release an immunization schedule each year.
An immunization schedule, as the name implies, refers to the certain time period of an individual’s life as to when they should get vaccinated. It’s a health document that is often used as a reference for vaccination of children at a very young age—as early as right after birth. And even as we grow older, there is still an immunization schedule recommended to prevent the spread of infections and diseases. It is also most commonly referred to as a vaccination schedule and may also be used as a health status report.
National immunization is often promoted to convince parents to take their children to the doctor or other healthcare professionals to get vaccinated. These schedules indicate the recommended ages for routine administration of approved vaccines for everyone, especially children, adolescents, and senior adults.
Vaccinating children as prescribed by the academy of pediatrics or the CDC protects them from many potentially dangerous diseases before their second birthday. Immunization does not only protect the vaccinated child, but also the people around them with the weakened immune systems.
This is the reason why the government and its health agencies release a printable immunization schedule to make access to vaccination easy and hassle-free.
Factors Considered in an Immunization Schedule
As part of their mission to promote health and overall wellbeing, written recommendations of the timeline of vaccine shots for children and adults in the US. These recommendations are set in order to protect babies, children, teens, and adults against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) considers different factors when setting the immunization schedule. Some of them include:
How to Create an Immunization Schedule?
Immunization among children is really important. In most cases, it’s a matter of increasing the chances of survival as it boosts the immune system. Although it is up to parents to immunize their children or not, it is highly advised that children, teens, adults, and seniors—or basically everyone get their vaccine shots as recommended by vaccine experts. And it may sound easy, but a lot of thought is required when creating an immunization schedule. These are the five steps you may follow should you decide to create one on your own:
Step 1: Create a Timeline of Vaccines
Vaccine manufacturers often have guidelines in terms of administering their vaccine products. To help you keep track of their schedule, the first thing you should do is to create a timeline of vaccines vis-à-vis the age of the child or individual needing a vaccine. Plot the types of vaccines needed on a particular phase of a person’s development.
Step 2: Identify Routine Vaccination Schedule
The second step is to determine the routine vaccination schedule. It usually refers to the most common vaccines administered to individuals for polio, measles, hepatitis B, and DTaP, among others. This also means that these are the standard scheduled vaccines set by experts based on their deliberations. It may seem that routine vaccination is only for kids, but it is recommended to everyone of all ages. The flu shot is considered as part of a routine vaccination schedule and everyone should get it at least once a year. Often, vaccine experts take time in learning the ins and outs of a vaccine before they give their approval for its use.
Step 3: Identify Catch-up Vaccination Schedule
A catch-up vaccination schedule refers to individuals, usually 18 years old and above, who did not receive the routine vaccines at the recommended age. Catch-up vaccines are given to those people who have not been previously vaccinated and/or missed their scheduled vaccine dose, or those who have no completed the suggested number of vaccine dosages. This is also applicable to those who missed booster vaccination.
Step 4: Consider Special Situations
Not everyone can get vaccinated even if they want to because of their circumstances that’s why it’s essential to consider special situations when creating an immunization schedule. These special situations may arise from the individual’s health conditions due to immunosuppression, prematurity, pregnancy, and exposure to infectious diseases. Special vaccines or special vaccination schedules should be indicated if there are vaccines that should be postponed or prohibited for them to use.
Step 5: Review Immunization Schedule
After taking the first few steps in creating an immunization schedule, reviewing your own document must not be skipped. Vaccination is an important process with high stakes. A comprehensive and accurate immunization schedule can save lives and improves the chances of better vaccine protection and minimizes the risks of the vaccine’s adverse effects.
Five Reasons Why It’s Important to Get Vaccinated
It is a well-known fact that vaccines help the body fight against viruses and bacterial infections. Take for instance the 2020 pandemic. During this unprecedented time in recent history, there has not been an outbreak as deadly and as crippling as the COVID-19 global health crisis since smallpox. But thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated in 1980. We hope to see the same trend happen with Covid-19. With the help of many experts working together, it has been possible to develop vaccines that can mitigate the severe effects of the novel coronavirus in the human body.
But other than the high likelihood of eliminating the incidence of infection, there are several other reasons why it’s important that people get vaccinated.
Prevent Viral Spread. Low to zero cases of certain dangerous diseases caused by viruses do not necessarily mean that they have been eliminated. Viruses and bacteria that cause death still exist and are very much infectious and can be passed on to those who were not vaccinated. And with the opened borders making global travel easy, it also makes it easy for viral spread and transmission a whole lot easier.
Vaccines Keep You Healthy. Immunization schedules are not just for young children but all ages. The CDC recommends that vaccination throughout one’s lifetime as protection against viral infections. Like diet and exercise, vaccines play an important role in keeping you healthy. When you skip it, you leave yourself vulnerable to different diseases. So, it’s important to get your scheduled vaccine shots—they are safe and convenient preventive care measures that you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
Vaccines Save Lives. Many deadly diseases are vaccine-preventable and it could be the fine line that separates life and death. Every year, about 50,000 American adults die due to vaccine-preventable diseases like complications from HPV and hepatitis B—both leading causes of cancer. The protection it provides outweighs the cost of getting a shot and its potential and uncommon side effects. Furthermore, does not cause infection of diseases it is designed to protect.
Healthcare is Expensive. Not only do vaccine-preventable diseases expensive, but they also have a direct impact on you and your family. In the entire healthcare industry, getting sick carries a price tag of about USD 10 billion each year. The regular flu which can be prevented with a flu shot sets someone back for up to 15 days of missed work or school days. Recovery from Hepatitis A takes a while to recover and will let you miss about one month of work.
Protect the People Around You. Every year in the US, millions of adults get diagnosed with vaccine-preventable diseases and they are also the most common source of infection among older adults and babies. When you miss your vaccine time, you set yourself vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections and put those people around you at high risk of getting infected. Getting vaccinated ensures your protection against these diseases and also protects your family and other people in the community who are not able to be vaccinated.
What happens if a person or a child misses their vaccination schedule?
There are many possible reasons why the immunization schedule was not followed. But any vaccine dose that was not administered during the recommended age should be given at a subsequent visit as prescribed and when feasible.
Why should vaccination start at a young age?
Young children are vulnerable to many types of diseases at an early age—at birth, even. Infants and young children do not have a fully developed immune system and this puts them at great risks from diseases. This is the reason why vaccination plans and immunization schedules were crafted specifically to protect very young children.
Aside from children, can older adults be vaccinated too?
Nearly every one of all ages, shapes, and sizes, can get vaccinated except for those individuals with comorbidities. Their underlying medical conditions prevent them from getting certain types of vaccines or they have to wait longer before they can get their vaccine shots. These conditions include:
- Undergoing treatment for a chronic illness that affect their immune system
- Severe allergic reactions to certain vaccine ingredients
- Having severe illness of high-grade fever on the day of vaccination
Why do vaccines have side effects?
Like any other medicine, vaccines may cause mild side effects to some people and long-lasting side effects are extremely rare. Often, side effects of vaccines include low-grade fever and redness or tenderness on the injection site. These side effects also dissipate on their own within a few days.
Vaccines should not be optional and their administration should be done in accordance with the immunization schedule. It is important that vaccines are constantly monitored for safety and to catch rare adverse effects. It is also crucial for people, especially young children and seniors to follow their immunization schedule and get vaccinated to protect themselves from viral spread and infection. It’s also a key towards herd immunity and strengthens the immunity of the community.