Beyond the Tears: Vaccines Protect Kids

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You don’t want to see your baby or young child in pain. And you can’t avoid seeing the anti-vaccine posts on social media. But solid research shows that immunizations are extremely safe and effective. They protect children from diseases that can cause serious illness and sometimes death.

Why Are Vaccines So Important? 

Before immunizations, parents lived in fear of many diseases that could harm or even kill their children, like polio, measles and diphtheria. But today, over 90 percent of these diseases can be prevented with vaccines. Family physician Brandon J. Bell, MD, with Monroe Medical Center explains that because these illnesses are now rare, some parents may feel they can opt out of the shots. “But without immunization, these diseases can quickly return and spread,” explains Dr. Bell. “Even though you may not see a lot of cases of diphtheria or measles, children are still at risk for developing them.” 

Many of these diseases are still common in other countries. That means that even if you don’t travel abroad, your children can still become exposed to the diseases by others who return after visiting these countries. ”Some of these diseases can be deadly,” warns Dr. Bell. “That’s why immunization is so important. If your child has missed some vaccines, we have a schedule for getting them back on track,” he says. If this is the case with your child, tell your doctor. 

Are Vaccines Safe?

Vaccines contain a dead or weakened form of the disease they’re created to prevent. They trigger your child’s defenses to build immunity to the disease. This may sound risky, but scientists test vaccines to make sure they are safe before they’re approved for use by the FDA. Plus, today’s vaccines have been used and perfected over decades. They are the best that U.S. children have ever received, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Every day, your child is naturally exposed to thousands of antigens, the parts of germs and vaccines that trigger immunity against disease. Even when your baby is given multiple vaccines at one time, the number of antigens she’s exposed to is small compared to the number of antigens your body and hers handle naturally every day. 

“There has been a lot of misinformation on the internet about vaccines causing harm,” says Dr. Bell. “I encourage parents to trust their physician or health care provider instead of something they read on the internet or social media.” 

What are the Risks from Vaccines? 

Vaccines can have side effects, like all medicines. The vast majority are very mild – like soreness at the site of the shot, a low-grade fever and fussiness. A very small number of children will experience a more severe reaction. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. 

But many rumors about vaccines (for example, that they’re linked to autism) have been disproved. The reality is that for almost all children the risk of harm is much greater if they don’t get vaccinated. 

Is the Timing Important?

“It’s important to follow the outline for vaccines for children,” explains Dr. Bell, “because they are scheduled at a time when their immune system is at the right stage to fight against diseases they may be exposed to.

The schedule is backed by research, he adds. Some parents worry that their children are too young to receive certain vaccines, or they question the combination of vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But research shows that delaying immunization can actually harm babies and very young children who are the most likely to suffer from the diseases that the vaccines protect against, says the CDC. 

The standard immunization schedule is backed by numerous studies that determine when a child’s immune system is most responsive, says Dr. Bell. In some instances the immunizations are combined in a way that gives the most protection to the most vulnerable. The bottom line: Vaccines are important for children’s health, and it’s highly recommended that parents follow the standard schedule. 

If you’re feeling fearful, know that you aren’t alone. Like all good parents, you just want to do what is best for your child. Talk to your child’s doctor and let her reassure you. Learn the facts so that you can be confident you’re doing the right thing by following the recommended immunization schedule. 

To learn more about immunizations, talk to your doctor or health care provider or search for a provider.

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