Immunizations: Protect your child and others

Amanda FloecknerHealthy Living

Immunizations

Why does your child need to be immunized?

As a parent, you want the best for your children – from  special car seats and tamper-proof locks, to providing nutritious food and putting out of reach items that could cause injury or illness. But one of the best ways to protect children and keep disease from spreading is to make sure they receive all their vaccinations.

Newborns are immune to many diseases because they have antibodies from their mothers. However, this immunity does not last, and if an unvaccinated child is exposed to a disease, his or her body may not be strong enough to fight the infection. Immunizations stimulate your child’s immune defenses to produce antibodies against germs that cause certain illnesses.

Immunization protects your child and others

In the past 50 years, diseases that once sickened, impaired or killed thousands of children – measles, diphtheria, polio, mumps, rubella, whooping cough and more — have either been eradicated or close to it. Vaccines protect children by helping their bodies fight off these serious and potentially deadly diseases and keep them from spreading infections among those who have weakened immune systems or are too young to be fully immunized.

If children who have been vaccinated do get a disease, their symptoms are unusually milder with fewer serious side effects or complications than those who haven’t been vaccinated. If fewer children are immunized, the bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases could once again begin to infect more children.

Vaccines are safe, side effects are rare

Some parents raise safety questions because of misinformation they’ve received — especially  about the possibility that vaccinations could be one of the causes of autism. Scientific studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and other experts have found no link between vaccines and autism or other conditions.

A child may experience mild swelling, redness and tenderness at the vaccine-injection site, or run a slight fever afterward, but side effects are rarely serious.

Immunization is a good investment

Children with a vaccine-preventable disease can be kept home from school or daycare facilities. A lengthy illness could cause parents to lose time at work and result in medical bills for doctor visits, hospitalizations or long-term disability care. Vaccinations are usually covered by insurance and there are federally funded programs that provide vaccinations at no cost to children of parents who can’t afford to pay.

If you have questions or concerns about immunization or individual vaccination schedules, discuss them with you child’s doctor.

For more information, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Washington State Department of Health.