Jessica Sheehy, P.A.-C.
The health of your child is the most important thing in the world. You protect them with shelter, safety and proper nutrition. But if you've missed his or her vaccinations, you're exposing your child to a litany of potentially dangerous — even deadly — diseases. The most effective method of prevention is to ensure your child receives the proper vaccination series, which typically is completed by age 6.
Benefits of vaccinations
Early childhood vaccinations protect children when they're most vulnerable. In fact, these vaccinations help prevent 14 different childhood illnesses, many of which can have devastating effects on children. Among them include HPV, influenza, measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
In addition to keeping your kids safe, regular vaccination of healthy children helps protect those children in the community who are unable to receive vaccinations because of health problems or allergies. This concept is called herd immunity. However, vaccination rates usually need to be greater than 95% to effectively protect those who cannot be vaccinated. So, don't forgo vaccinations because you assume others will safeguard you.
Due to the outstanding success of vaccinations, many people in younger generations haven't seen the terrible consequences of these diseases. Nonetheless, certain illnesses resurface as vaccination rates decrease.
How vaccinations work
Vaccinations use a weakened or dead antigen — a small piece of the virus or bacteria that helps your body trigger an immune system response — allowing children to develop natural immunity while facing a significantly decreased risk of harm compared to an actual infection. And there's no issue giving babies multiple vaccinations at once. Babies are exposed to new antigens every day, and the number of antigens in vaccines is only a fraction of what they're exposed to environmentally.
Concerns about vaccinations
People often question side effects of childhood vaccinations. A common mistruth in the anti-vaccine community is vaccinations cause autism. There is no link to autism. The study that originally made this claim has been refuted by the journal in which it was originally published, as well as numerous other peer-reviewed, scientific journals.
Side effects, which are minor in almost all cases, can include low-grade fever, fussiness, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite and soreness at the injection site. Risks of serious side effects are miniscule in comparison to the danger of not getting your child vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these vaccinations:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis
- Haemophilus influenza B
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, mumps and rubella
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Many of these vaccinations can be administered in groups, and there are also catch-up schedules available. Certain individuals shouldn't receive vaccines, so discuss this with your health care provider. Also, you can review the guidelines on the CDC's website.
Look for future recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccines for children and adolescents on the COVID-19 vaccine information page.
When considering your child's health, make sure you factor in the absolute necessity of proper childhood vaccinations. You protect your child and your community when you vaccinate. Discuss questions or concerns with your health care team.