Say Yes to Childhood Vaccinations
On-schedule vaccinations given to children provide immunity before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. It’s easy to forget that in our grandparents’ time, serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, German measles, and influenza caused severe harm and in many cases death to infants, children, and adults.
Even though the number of cases of these are currently very low, these viruses and bacteria are still lurking in many areas of the world where vaccinations are not available. With expanded global travel to far-flung areas of the world, these serious diseases can quickly spread to people who have not been vaccinated.
You may be surprised to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “More individuals are killed annually in the US by vaccine-preventable infection than by HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, or traffic accidents.” They recommend vaccinations from birth through adulthood.
Vaccines offer an invisible layer of protection from a long list of infectious diseases like Hepatitis, Shingles, Chickenpox, and Typhoid, to name a few. I think about it this way, we routinely protect our kids when we buckle them into their car seats every morning, even though we don’t expect to get into a car accident on the way to school. In the same way, we protect our kids and our community when we vaccinate our kids against these infections.
When the vaccination rate goes down, outbreaks of the disease begin to occur, such as the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in 2015. This highly contagious illness spread from a single person at Disneyland to 145 people in the US and a few more in Canada and Mexico. The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine that is recommended around age 2, is the one that could have prevented it.
Here is a schedule for recommended childhood vaccinations from the CDC.
One in a Million (Vaccines are Safe – Really)
I know that people worry about having a reaction to a vaccine. Let me help you by putting the risk into context. Because of the way vaccines are made, reactions are very rare, in fact, you’re more likely to win the lottery than have a reaction. An extensive 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine found that the U.S. childhood immunization schedule is effective and holds very few risks and the rate of reaction is about 1 per million vaccines. In fact, vaccines have worked so well that most people born after 1980 do not remember or have much knowledge of the illnesses they prevent.
How do Vaccines Work?
The way that vaccines work is to expose the body to the inactivated antigens of that particular disease. Antigens are close enough to the disease to fire up your immune response so that your body will make antibodies specifically for that illness. These antibodies prevent the illness from taking hold, in other words, they create an invisible barrier against the disease.
These antibodies are available for many decades and continue to recognize and fight that disease in the future.
What About the Number of Vaccines
Some parents worry that their kids are getting a lot more shots than they did, and that’s understandable. What we try to emphasize is that with advances in science, children now are being protected from almost twice as many illnesses as their parents were. Babies are pretty tough! The antigens in childhood vaccines are nothing compared to what your child fends off every day in the big dirty world. A pediatrician weighs in:
“I’m an infectious-disease specialist, but I don’t see infections in children after they’ve had all the routine vaccines at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, which would happen if their immune system were overloaded,” says Mark H. Sawyer, M.D., professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital.
Vaccines are among the safest medical products available and can prevent the suffering and costs associated with infectious diseases. The potential risks associated with the diseases that vaccines prevent are much greater than the potential risks from the vaccines themselves.
From the CDC:
All ingredients of vaccines play necessary roles either in making the vaccine, triggering the body to develop immunity or in ensuring that the final product is safe and effective. Some of these include:
- Adjuvants that help boost the body’s response to a vaccine. (Also found in antacids, buffered aspirin, antiperspirants, etc.)
- Stabilizers help keep vaccine effective after manufactured (Also found in foods such as Jell-O® and resides in the body naturally.)
- Thimerosal is also used during the manufacturing process but is no longer an ingredient in any vaccine except multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine. Single-dose vials of the flu vaccine are available as an alternative. No reputable scientific studies have found an association between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
Adults Need Protection Too
Approximately 50,000 adults die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Illness also contributes to many lost days from work and when adults are sick, they can expose other members of their families, including the very young and the very old, who are more likely to have a serious infection.
A National Health Survey of adults found:
Only 43 percent of people aged 19 and older received an annual flu shot.
Just 20 percent had a Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
Just 20 percent received a pneumonia vaccine for people between 19 and 64 years of age who are considered high risk for developing the illness.
Among older adults, just 27 percent of people older than 60 were vaccinated to prevent Shingles.
It’s my recommendation and that of the American Academy of Pediatrics to have your children vaccinated. Do be sure to get educated on the facts and get protected. It makes the world safer for all of us.