By Judy Fortin
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children be immunized to protect them from dangerous childhood diseases.
CNN learned more about vaccines from Dr. Joanne Cox, medical director of the Children's Primary Care Center at Children's Hospital Boston in Massachusetts.
CNN: How do vaccines work?
COX: Vaccines are basically chemicals that are used to create immunity in the body. They are used particularly in childhood for the many types of childhood illnesses that have existed in large quantities in the past. They produce immunities in the body, and therefore children don't get sick with these illnesses anymore. (Watch to learn which shots your baby needs. )
CNN: Why is it important for children to be vaccinated?
COX: A vaccine is important because these illnesses in the past created death in a lot of children.
CNN: Why should children have to go through the pain of a shot if some of the diseases don't exist?
COX: The diseases are not eliminated entirely from the world. There are still pockets of measles and mumps, even in the United States. If we were to begin not to immunize large groups of children, then they would become vulnerable to these illnesses.
CNN: Can vaccinations cause autism?
COX: There is a lot of concern that vaccines cause autism; part of that is because some of the vaccines are given around the time autism is first noticed. When the evidence is examined from a very large point of view, there isn't medical evidence that there is any connection between vaccines and autism.
CNN: Are there risks with combination vaccines?
COX: We've developed combination vaccines because there are so many vaccines to give. There is not any additional risk of combination vaccines, and parents should not be worried about that.
CNN: Do breast-fed babies still need to be vaccinated?
COX: Breast-fed babies definitely need to be vaccinated. It's true that they do get immunity from the mother and breast milk, but that doesn't protect them from many of these diseases that they would be susceptible to.
CNN: What happens if your child misses a vaccine?
COX: If a child misses a vaccine, there is a catch-up schedule in your doctor's office. There is no reason not to get vaccinated if your child misses one.
CNN: What happens if you don't get your child vaccinated?
COX: The diseases that we've vaccinated against have been life-threatening in the past and could definitely be life-threatening again in the future. It's known that when vaccination rates go down in a community, you see an increase in disease. That's why it's really important that all parents vaccinate their children.
CNN: Any tips to minimize discomfort?
COX: We use various forms of distractions. Sometimes we have bubbles or pictures. We talk to them about other things while we're doing the vaccines. I think it's important to have a lighthearted view toward the vaccines and not show your own concern.
Judy Fortin is a correspondent with CNN Medical News.