Most states in the US require that school age children be current on their shots. This means that if your child is not up to date on their shots, now is the time to make that appointment – before the back to school rush.
But other than it being required by law, why is it so important? Most of the diseases that you get vaccines for are nearly eliminated within the United States, right?
Risk from travelers
“History tells us if we stop vaccinating, the diseases will return,” says Dr. Lisa Gwynn, pediatrics expert at the University of Miami Health System. “This is especially important in the South Florida area, where thousands of children from all over the world come to live. Many of these kids have not been appropriately vaccinated in their native countries and some come from parts of the world in which measles is still common including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa.”
According to the CDC, there were 117 people in 13 states that were reported to have measles last year. Florida was one of those states. The majority of those people were unvaccinated. It is for these reasons that we must remain vigilant.
Risk for others
“The likelihood of your child coming down with measles, polio, chickenpox or whooping cough might be quite low today,” Dr. Gwynn continues. They also protect the community around us, especially those who may not be able to receive vaccines such as babies and the elderly. This community or “herd” immunity is essential for keeping these individuals safe from developing disease through the immunity of others. For example, infants aren’t immunized against measles until they are 12 months old. So, if they are exposed, they are very susceptible to the disease. These infants face less risk of exposure if others vaccinate themselves.”
In addition, children with weakened immune systems due to certain illness, including cancer and other diseases, aren’t healthy enough to get vaccinated. These children are at greater risk for contracting vaccine-preventable diseases and suffering complications and even death as a result. If your child is unvaccinated, they may be required to stay home from school or daycare to protect other children.
Are vaccines effective?
“Vaccines protect our community and future generations by keeping diseases that we have eradicated from making a comeback,” says Dr. Gwynn.
Some of these include:
- Rubella used to be common among young American children, with an estimated 12.5 million cases in the mid-1960s. Because of successful, widespread vaccinations, rubella has been eliminated from the country since 2004.
- Because most Americans are vaccinated against measles, outbreaks that infected more than 350,000 people around the world in 2011 were prevented from becoming an epidemic in the U.S.
- Before 1967’s mumps vaccine, the disease was an almost typical part of American childhood. Since then, we’ve seen a more than 99 percent decrease in cases due to high vaccination rates.
- Smallpox has been completely erased from the world, thanks to effective vaccination.
When you vaccinate your child, you’re reducing their future need for antibiotics, which is better for their long-term health. This also helps reduce the global spread of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections. For example, if every child in the world were vaccinated for the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (which causes pneumonia, meningitis and middle ear infections), this would prevent an estimated 11 million days of antibiotic use each year.
Are vaccines safe for my child?
Vaccines have been scientifically proven to be safe. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Vaccines undergo up to 10 years of testing, by law, before they are licensed for use. Once in use, vaccines are continually monitored for safety and effectiveness.
However, like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these side effects are minor and include injection site reaction, mild fever, fatigue, headache and muscle and joint pain. An allergic reaction is possible, yet is extremely rare.
The 1998 study that claimed there’s a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism was later discovered to be fraudulent and false, according to the National Institutes of Health. Unfortunately, this article generated great concern among parents, which lowered immunization rates and actually led to outbreaks of these diseases.
What happens if I don’t vaccinate my child?
Choosing to not vaccinate your child puts them at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases with potentially serious or life-threatening complications. Your unvaccinated child may be required to stay home from school or daycare to help prevent the spread of applicable diseases.
Many parents ask for their children to be permanently exempt due to religious or philosophical objections. The law requires that religious objection requests be completed by the county health department. Philosophical exemptions vary by state; Florida does not allow them.
Health providers may complete temporary exemptions for those who are in the process of completing any necessary immunizations, but there must be an expiration date after which the exemption is no longer valid. They can also grant permanent medical exemptions for those children with severe allergic reactions following vaccination, as well as severe combined immunodeficiency/encephalopathy that is not attributable to another cause within seven days of being vaccinated. Children who have or are receiving chemotherapy or long-term immunosuppressive therapy may be allowed medical exemption.
Parents: empower yourselves with valid scientific information about vaccines. The best resource is the Centers for Disease Control. And discuss this information with your pediatrician. Together you can make an informed decision about what is best for your child. Find out more about vaccinations at uhealthclinics.com.