Many diseases that were once common and deadly have been nearly eradicated by modern day immunizations. However, in recent years, there has been a controversy surrounding vaccination safety and mandatory immunization laws, even though major health organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, still strongly support the use of vaccinations. They even go as far as emphasizing the importance of adhering to vaccination recommendations and schedules for children, teens and adults.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to make sure all of your family members’ immunizations are up-to-date.
How Vaccines Work:
Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses, preparing in advance for potentially dangerous infections. By introducing a manageable amount of a virus or toxin into the body, your immune system is prompted to create antibodies specific to that disease, that it will then “remember” and access more quickly should you naturally acquire the virus.
Do I have to immunize?
The short answer is: yes. Although the incidence of diseases such as meningitis and polio are rare, when they do occur, they can still be deadly. Pertussis and measles are still relatively common and can have serious consequences, particularly for infants, children, and other at-risk populations. An unvaccinated child puts those who cannot be vaccinated (because they are too young or have compromised immune systems) at risk. If an outbreak occurs, an unvaccinated child may also be excluded from school or daycare. But the best reason to vaccinate your child is because not vaccinating increases the chance that he or she will contract a deadly and preventable disease.
What are the risks associated with immunizations?
As with any drug or medical procedure, immunization carries some risks. Both children and adults may experience mild side effects (such as soreness near the site or a low-grade fever) after receiving an immunization, but extreme reactions are rare. Monitor children after they have been immunized and seek help if they experience any strong or concerning symptoms.
Who needs to get vaccinated?
The Center for Disease Control recommends babies and young children follow a schedule to be vaccinated for 16 specific diseases. There are also vaccinations recommended for teenagers and adults, such as the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine and annual flu shots. If you are planning to leave the country, it is important to find out whether you need certain vaccinations to protect yourself and others from diseases uncommon or nonexistent in the US. For recommended immunization schedules and complete information, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Who should not be vaccinated?
People with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer, HIV, or other autoimmune disorders, may not be able to tolerate certain vaccinations. Some vaccines should not be given to infants or young children. Consult your doctor if you belong to one of these high-risk groups.
How do I find out which immunizations are required?
Every state decides which vaccines are required for children to attend school or a childcare facility. These vaccinations are mandatory in order to protect both individuals and the public. Many states make allowances for medical, religious, or philosophical exemptions. To find out your state’s vaccination laws, go to http://www2a.cdc.gov/nip/schoolsurv/schImmRqmt.asp.
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