We all know parenting can be challenging, to say the least, but imagine parenting under the constant fear that an outbreak of a childhood disease such as measles, whooping cough (pertussis), meningitis or polio might occur in your community or at your child’s school putting them at high risk for serious, and sometimes fatal diseases? It’s almost unimaginable to parents of young children in 2014 that many diseases that we have not seen in decades could make a virulent return, but it could happen.
Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their infants from 14 serious childhood diseases before age 2.
Over the past fifty years, U.S. vaccination programs have eliminated or significantly reduced many serious, even deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, polio, meningitis, whooping cough, pneumococcal, rubella (German measles), chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, and mumps, but the bacteria or viruses that cause these diseases still exist, can reappear at any time, and can sicken anyone who is not protected by vaccines. In fact, recently in Syria, the past years of civil war and the interruption of the most basic medical services, including childhood immunizations, has resulted in an outbreak of polio. Even here in the U.S. there have been recent serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough and measles among children not immunized. In 2012, there were 48,000 cases of whooping cough (including 20 deaths), the highest reported number of cases since 1955.
Vaccinations protect against serious complications of childhood diseases.
Vaccinating your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule gives him or her the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses – like measles and whooping cough – before age two. The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
Fortunately, most parents choose to vaccinate their children and immunization rates in this country are at or near record high levels. Only a very small percentage of kids in the U.S. does not receive any vaccines. But missing a scheduled vaccine or not following up for a booster, also means a child is not fully immunized. It’s important for kids to receive all of the recommended doses of a vaccine according to schedule. Not receiving all doses of a vaccine leaves a child vulnerable to catching serious diseases. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that your child is up-to-date on immunizations. Talk to your child’s doctor if you have questions about their immunization record.
If your child misses a shot in a series, you don’t necessarily have to start over. Contact your child’s doctor about how to proceed so your child receives all recommended immunizations as soon as possible.
The facts about multiple vaccinations
The vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for use in all children do not interfere with each other and, as needed, can be safely given together during a single visit.
Research has shown that when multiple vaccines are given together, the side effects are no greater than when immunizations are given individually. In fact, the only 2 vaccines that can’t be given together are yellow fever and cholera vaccines. This is really no longer a concern because the cholera vaccine is no longer recommended for use and the yellow fever vaccine is used mostly for travelers to certain areas of the world.
Unintended consequences of not immunizing
When you make sure your baby or young child’s vaccinations are up-to-date you are also protecting others who may not be vaccinated or who have compromised immune systems. For example, some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated and some individuals may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, or weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other reasons. If your child has not been vaccinated and is exposed to a childhood disease, not only is he at risk, but so is everyone he is around. Even if your child doesn’t contract the disease or has only a mild case, he may infect someone who is not so lucky. To help keep those around you safe, it is important that you and your children (who are able to get vaccinated) are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases in your community.
Paying for Immunization
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccinations, but you should check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance does not cover vaccinations, your child is eligible for vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
The VFC Program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to recommended childhood vaccines. This federal program provides vaccines for eligible children at no cost for the vaccine itself, although an administration fee may apply. To determine if your child is eligible under the VFC program, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/parents/qa-detailed or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).
For more information about immunizations, contact your family practice physician, your county health department, or visit www.healthychildren.org a service of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The American Academy of Pediatrics