Many parents ask themselves questions such as: Should my baby be immunized or not? Does immunization promote or harm health? Here we are trying to provide you with a clear overview of everything you should know, as a parent, about vaccinating your baby.
From pregnancy to birth, some babies can benefit from their mother’s antibodies if she has received vaccines or if she has already contracted diseases. But these precious antibodies disappear from the first month of their age, making babies vulnerable at the same time.
During the immunization, they will be injected with part of the virus or bacteria of a disease so that their system produces antibodies. Furthermore, their antibodies could immunize them against it.
Many studies making the link between immunization and certain irreversible diseases are not unrelated to their concerns. Even if a lot of research proves that vaccines like MMR (Mumps, Measles, and Rubella) are not responsible for autism, or that there is no link between that of hepatitis B and multiple sclerosis, some parents remain skeptical.
Another anxiety that also comes to mind for families is the side effects of vaccines. Even if health professionals readily admit that there may be minor discomforts following an injection (slight fever, redness, etc.), they still agree that the consequences in the event of illness could be much heavier. For example, one child in a million has a chance of having encephalitis as a result of the measles vaccine, compared to one in 1,000 if they catch the virus.
There are vaccines that target the pathogen, which reduces or even eradicate the pathogen, such as the smallpox vaccine. Today, there is no longer any risk of encountering the smallpox virus. This is not the case for other vaccines, if for example if we take the diphtheria vaccine, the vaccine does not target the bacteria, it only aims to protect us from its harmful effects, and it targets the toxin of the bacterium. In other words, the bacteria still circulates among us, but in a silent way because we are protected from it. As proof, a few years ago, a young child died of diphtheria in Spain. He was not vaccinated, he contaminated all of his boyfriends during a summer camp. Fortunately, his friends were vaccinated and therefore did not develop symptoms and this is proof that this bacteria is still with us.
Some diseases with disastrous consequences are declining or almost disappeared today. Thanks to vaccines! Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 following a global vaccination campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the turn of the 20th century, this disease caused 2 million victims a year. Today WHO and GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative) collaborate in another vaccination campaign to try to eradicate this time polio. The number of cases has reduced by more than 99% compared to the situation in 1988, the year when the global program was launched. At the time, more than 350,000 people remained paralyzed each year as a result of this disease. Is it precisely the virtual disappearance of the diseases against which we vaccinate that lowers our vigilance and our perception of vaccines?
What is essential to understand is that vaccination is both individual protection and group protection. In fact, the person vaccinated is individually protected against illness. But the benefit of immunization goes far beyond! By blocking the disease, it also prevents the circulation of viruses and bacteria, protecting the family circle and all of society. In particular the most fragile: young children and the elderly. This is what epidemiologists call the “herd effect”.
This mutual protection only works if a sufficient number of group members are vaccinated. This is why the level of immunization coverage is given if followed. This mutual protection also offers the possibility of not vaccinating 100% of individuals while effectively protecting the group, since the circulation of the disease is contained. However, for unvaccinated people, the risk of disease is real if exposed.