Why Immunizations Are Important

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Why Immunizations Are Important

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we strongly believe in the importance of immunizations and fully advise giving your child all recommended vaccines from birth until age 18.

Lauren Adler, Westchester Health Pediatrics, immunizations, vaccines, immunizing your child

Lauren Adler, MD

Amidst the recent discussions surrounding the alarming outbreak of measles (which had largely been eradicated here in the U.S.) and some families defending their right to “opt out” of immunizations, we firmly recommend to all our parents, now more than ever, that they vaccinate their children. Short of basic sanitation and nutrition, no medical intervention has done more to save lives and prevent disease than immunizations.

To read more about why we believe immunizations are so important, please read our Immunizations page.

Come in and talk with us; we’re here to help

If with us at any of our 12 office locations. We’re here to answer your questions, put your mind at ease, and tell you why we believe immunizations are so important.

In addition, we’d like to go over some information here in this blog which will  help your understanding of vaccinations and dispel some myths you may have seen or heard on TV, the Internet or from other parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends immunizations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) officially recommends immunizations as the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability and death. The AAP urges parents to immunize their children against childhood diseases and believes that it is always better to prevent a disease than to have to treat it or live with the consequences of contracting it.

Do vaccinations work?

Yes, vaccinations definitely work. Vaccinations have helped children stay healthy for more than 50 years, have saved millions of lives, and have reduced the number of infections from vaccine-preventable diseases by more than 90%. Plus, not only do vaccines help prevent your child from contracting up to 16 diseases, they help keep these diseases from spreading throughout the whole population.

Are vaccinations safe?

Yes, vaccinations are safe. Before being approved, all vaccines must be tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will not let a vaccine be given unless it has been proven to be safe and to work well in children. Then the data is reviewed again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians before a vaccine is officially recommended to be given to children. Also, the FDA monitors where and how vaccines are made. Laboratories manufacturing vaccines must be licensed and are regularly inspected. Also, each vaccine lot is safety-tested.

Do vaccinations cause autism?

No, vaccinations do not cause autism. Over the last two decades, extensive research has studied whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism — all the more reason why at Westchester Health Pediatrics, we strongly advise immunizing your child.

Vaccines protect a large number of us through herd immunity

Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person. When a person has been vaccinated for a particular disease, he/she is then immune to that disease and can’t infect others. The greater number of people who are vaccinated, the fewer opportunities a disease has to spread. This is known as herd immunity.

Herd immunity is the benefit everyone receives from a vaccinated population. When enough people are vaccinated, everyone — including those who are too young or too sick to be immunized — receives some protection from the spread of diseases, even those who are unvaccinated.

What would happen if we stopped vaccinating?

Before immunizations, diseases like whooping cough, polio, measles, rubella and the flu struck hundreds of thousands of babies, children and adults in the U.S., killing thousands every year. As vaccines were developed and became widely used, these diseases greatly declined until today, most of them are nearly gone from this country.

Examples of the effectiveness of vaccines: More than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, before there was a vaccine. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to the CDC since 2004. An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12½ million Americans, killed 2,000 babies and caused 11,000 miscarriages. In 2012, only 9 cases of rubella
were reported to the CDC.

Before the measles vaccine, there used to be thousands of cases in the U.S. each year. After the development of the vaccine, there were less than 100 in 2000. However, because some parents these days are choosing not to vaccinate their children against measles, more than 600 cases were reported in 2014, with far more expected in 2015. For people who contract measles, 1 in 20 develop pneumonia, 1 in 100 develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and 2 in 1000 will die.

Booster shots are also important

Just as important as initial vaccinations are booster shots. These are designed to continue your child’s immunity by building on the previous vaccines’ effectiveness. Unfortunately, some parents forget or skip the boosters, which greatly diminishes the effectiveness of the vaccines. And the fewer vaccinated children there are, the more likely a serious disease will return and
infect all of those who are unvaccinated.

Are there side effects after getting a vaccine?

Your child may experience mild side effects such as swelling, redness and tenderness where the injection was given, but these do not last long. Your child may also have a slight fever and be fussy for a short time afterward. It is rare for side effects to be serious, but contact your child’s pediatrician right away if your child has:

  • A very high fever (more than 103°F) and is younger than 3 months old
  • Hives or black-and-blue areas at places where the injection was not given
  • A seizure

What if I don’t want to immunize my child?

Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children. But when children are not immunized, the results can be devastating. Each year, thousands of children in the United States become seriously ill or die from diseases that could have been prevented with the proper immunizations. If you decide not to immunize, you’re not only putting your child at risk of catching a disease that is dangerous or potentially fatal, but you’re also putting at risk all other children who come in contact with your child.

Vaccines we recommend

Your child needs all of the following immunizations to stay healthy:

  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines: to help protect against serious liver diseases
  • Rotavirus vaccine: to help protect against the most common cause of diarrhea and vomiting
    in infants and young children (and the most common cause of hospitalizations in young
    infants due to vomiting and diarrhea)
  • DTaP vaccine: to help protect against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw) and pertussis (whooping
    cough)
  • Hib vaccine: to help protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (a cause of meningitis)
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: to help protect against ear infection, pneumonia, bacterial meningitis
    and infections of the blood
  • Polio vaccine: to help protect against a crippling viral disease that can cause paralysis
  • Influenza vaccine: to help protect against the flu (recommended beginning at 6 months and
    older)
  • MMR vaccine: to help protect against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles)
  • Varicella vaccine: to help protect against chickenpox and its many complications, including
    flesh-eating strep, staph toxic shock and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Meningococcal vaccine: to help protect against very serious bacterial diseases that affect the
    blood, brain and spinal cord
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine: to prevent viral infections in teens and adults that
    cause cancers of the mouth and throat, cervix and genitals, as well genital warts

Recommended vaccination schedules

To make it easy for parents to stay up-to-date with their children’s immunizations, the following schedules are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • For the recommended immunization schedule for children birth-6 years old, click here.
  • For the recommended immunization schedule for children 7-18 years old, click here.
  • For a list of vaccine-preventable diseases and the vaccines that prevent them, click here.

Resources for you to learn more about the importance of immunizations:

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball