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Parents' Guide To Childhood Immunizations

Vaccination is the administration of antigenic material to stimulate an individual's immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen. In general, vaccines can prevent or ameliorate infectious disease. When a sufficiently large percentage of a population has been vaccinated, herd immunity results.

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. And as awful as it sounds, yes, some people are hospitalized, and some even die.

Many health professionals, parents, and researchers agree that vaccination is a critical step in protecting those that are most vulnerable to illness – infants and young children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems. Throughout the years, the international community has endorsed the value of vaccines and immunization to prevent and control a large number of infectious diseases and, increasingly, several chronic diseases that are caused by infectious agents. With that being said, here’s everything you need to know about vaccinations.

They Protect Your Children

Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Yes, you read that correctly – 16 diseases!

According to Kids Health, vaccines begin at 2 months of age to protect babies as early in life as possible against diseases that can make them very sick. Infant immune systems are stronger than you might think.And yes, babies respond well to vaccines at a very young age. Side effects from vaccination are not more common in young babies than older children.

The 7 diseases that are prevented by vaccines include:

  • Diphtheria (the 'D' in DTaP vaccine)
  • Tetanus (the 'T' in DTaP vaccine; also known as Lockjaw)
  • Pertussis (the 'P' in DTaP vaccine, also known as Whooping Cough)
  • Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Polio
  • Pneumococcal Disease.

Are They Safe?

Baby vaccination
Credit: iStock

When it comes to vaccines, a lot of people have this same question: is it safe? With that being said, keep this in mind: before a vaccine is ever recommended for use, it’s tested in labs. This process can take several years to ensure safety before it's even administered to the general public. According to Vaccines.com, the FDA uses the information from these tests to decide whether to test the vaccine with people.

Throughout the oftentimes lengthy process, the FDA works closely with the company producing the vaccine to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. The United States has one of the most advanced systems in the world for tracking vaccine safety.

Community Responsibility

Child vaccination
Credit: iStock / Jovanmandic

The CDC says that a lot of people believe that natural immunity (in other words, actually catching a disease and getting sick) results in a stronger immunity to the disease than a vaccination. This might of might not be true, depending on the child, where the family lives and what the circumstances are. However, the dangers of this approach far outweigh the relative benefits and that's why this theory isn't always recommended. In other words, you can't always trust Mother Nature to do her job.

As a parent, making sure your children are vaccinated on time is an important step toward ensuring their long-term health. Vaccination also helps protect the health of classmates, friends, relatives, and others in the community.

Despite many parents and their concerns that vaccinations can lead to autism or infant death syndrome, many health professionals agree that vaccines are both healthy and safe. And in some cases, they are absolutely necessary.

They Aren’t Just For Kids

child vaccination
Credit: iStock / Wavebreakmedia

Even if you got all your vaccines as a child, the protection from some vaccines can wear off over time. You may also be at risk for other diseases due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions.

According to WebMD, some people also believe that you can get a disease from a vaccine but health professionals have debunked that rumor for years. Chickenpox vaccine, for example, can cause a child to develop a rash, but only with a few spots. This isn’t harmful, and can actually show that the vaccine is working is indeed working. Trust us that you would rather have your child protected than have to deal with a life-threatening disease that could have been easily prevented.

Also, many of the vaccine-preventable diseases that are uncommon in the United States and Canada still occur in other parts of the world. So before you travel, make sure that your vaccinations are up to date.

In addition to getting additional doses of childhood vaccines, preteens and teens also need vaccines to help protect them from infections that can cause:

  • Meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Whooping cough
  • Flu

What You Can Do

Vaccines don’t deserve all the credit for reducing or eliminating rates of infectious disease. Better sanitation, nutrition, and the development of antibiotics helped a lot too.

Simply put, vaccines are an effective means of preventing life-threatening illnesses by boosting the body’s natural immune response to diseases caused by viruses and bacteria. As a parent, the best thing you can do is make sure that your child is always up-to-date with his or her vaccine schedule. Remember, your child’s health is in your hands. As a parent, it is your responsibility to do what's best for your family at all times.

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