Childhood immunizations: Always a good idea
May 14, 1999
Web posted at: 4:01 PM EDT (2001 GMT)
By Daphne Miller
(WebMD) -- Surprising as it is, there are still some parents who struggle over whether or not to have their children vaccinated. Here's a look at the facts -- and the falsehoods -- about immunization.
The truth about immunization
Most of the shots your child receives in the first few years of life provide lifelong protection (immunity) against deadly childhood diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and other infections. Half a century ago, these diseases caused a great deal of childhood death and disability throughout the world. In the United States today, we rarely see these diseases. In other parts of the world, however -- where vaccinations are not widely used -- these diseases still affect many children.
Myths and misconceptions
Even knowing those facts, some parents still decide not to give their children the recommended childhood vaccines. Several myths and misconceptions lead parents to make this decision:
My child might have a bad reaction to the vaccination shot.
My child might develop the disease that the immunization is supposed to prevent.
Since everyone else is vaccinating their children, my child won't be exposed to infections.
I can't afford to vaccinate my child.
Debunking the myths
In reality, most reactions to vaccines are very mild and last only a few hours. Symptoms include fever, fussiness, and pain in the area where the shot was given. Your healthcare provider can usually suggest remedies to make your children more comfortable and get them through this time.
The occurrence of disease caused by vaccinations is rare. Each year in the United States, only a small number of children come down with polio or encephalitis (a brain infection) or have an allergic (hypersensitive) reaction after getting their vaccines. These instances are very rare. Last year, for example, only about seven cases of polio in the United States were thought to have been caused by vaccines. This is a ratio of approximately one child to 1.2 million children vaccinated. And most of those seven children had some other disease that compromised their immune systems and allowed them to become infected by polio.
While it's true that vaccines contain bacteria or viruses, the amount injected into your child in a vaccine is tiny compared with the amount of bacteria that enters your child's body every day while playing with other children or sucking on fingers and toys.
Vaccinations only make your child's immune system stronger. There is no evidence to suggest that being vaccinated will make your child more likely to catch colds, flu bugs, or other illnesses.
Free vaccines for all
Sadly, some parents are not aware that vaccines are available free of charge to every child in the United States. While some private clinics refuse to treat uninsured children, each county should have a vaccination program for children regardless of age, ethnicity, or citizenship status. If you don't know where you can get your child immunized for free, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hotline at 1-800-232-2522 (English) or 1-800-232-0233 (Spanish). These hotlines operate Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST.
Any parent who is uncertain about whether or not to immunize their child should consult with their healthcare provider. Many myths about immunization can be put to rest by getting the facts. Parents who learn these facts usually decide that immunizing their children is the safer and healthier choice.
Copyright 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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