The Importance of Childhood Vaccinations
There are many things that you as a parent can do to protect your child from harm. Making sure your child is up to date on his or her immunizations is one of the most important.
Vaccines protect your child from serious, often deadly, diseases. Before the days of immunizations, diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox were serious health threats. Many children were quarantined, hospitalized, paralyzed or died because of these diseases. With the advent of vaccines, these diseases became either extinct or rare in the US. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in recent national news stories, some of these diseases are returning again, because fewer children are being immunized.
“Vaccine-preventable diseases are still a threat to our children, as we have seen with these recent outbreaks,” says Richard Van Enk, Ph.D, director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Bronson Healthcare. “When the non-immunized population reaches between five and ten percent or more, the population is no longer protected and we open ourselves up to outbreaks. The only way to reliably protect children against these diseases is with vaccines.”
What happens if children aren’t vaccinated?
If children are not up to date on their immunizations, they can easily get those diseases if they are exposed. Many of those diseases are still carried by people who do not appear sick, and they can expose other children. For some of those diseases, there is no specific treatment. The patient may be sick at home or in the hospital for weeks. Some diseases leave permanent damage to the patient, and some can be fatal.
“Children who have weakened immune systems, even if they’ve been vaccinated, are particularly at risk,” says VanEnk. “If they are around un-immunized children who may be carrying the disease, it is very dangerous. Parents who have children with compromised immune systems really want to be able to count on other parents to be vigilant about vaccinations.”
What are the side effects of vaccines?
Some children may notice some side effects after receiving a vaccination. The most common side effects are a mild fever or soreness at the injection site if the vaccine is given as a shot.
“All vaccine side effects are manageable and actually indicate that the vaccine is working and the immune system is being stimulated,” explains Van Enk.
What about flu shots?
Most immunizations are given as one series that is completed and gives lasting protection. Influenza is different because it needs to be given every year. Infants as young as six months of age should receive the flu vaccine annually, beginning in October.
Contact your child's pediatrician for more information about childhood vaccines. If you need a pediatrician, visit our Find a Doc page.
This article is brought to you by Bronson Children’s Hospital, southwest Michigan’s only children’s hospital. For more information about children’s health, visit bronsonhealth.com/children