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Vaccines have come a long way over the past century and have saved millions of children from once-deadly diseases such as polio and measles. Most school-age children in the United States are no longer in danger of dying from these diseases.


Why immunize?

Your child's vaccines protect his or her health and the health of your community. Vaccine-preventable diseases can easily be carried by viruses and bacteria to children and adults who have not received vaccines. It only takes one child who has not been vaccinated to catch a deadly disease and spread it to others. As an example, pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is spread easily, and may at first seem like a common cold. Another disease, diphtheria (dip-THEER-ee-uh), can lead to death if not treated in time. The bacteria from this disease produce a toxin that spreads through the body and can cause life-threatening breathing problems. With up-to-date vaccinations, your child can avoid such deadly risks.


Most side effects from vaccines are mild, and should not keep parents from having their child vaccinated. The most common side effects are soreness at the injection site, fever, headache, or dizziness, which may only last a few days. Many symptoms that occur after the shot are not from the vaccine. A baby's immune system goes through many changes during the first year of life, when many vaccines are given and the vaccine process can cause mild side effects. Although most patients do not suffer serious side effects, the chance of a harsh reaction is possible. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are afraid of the side effects. They are rare, but it is important to talk about each vaccine. They are all different, just like each patient, and the side effects will vary. It is important to remember that the benefits of vaccines for children outweigh the risks and should be taken seriously.

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Risks of not vaccinating

Many of the diseases that vaccines prevent have not been seen in so long that parents may not understand the harm of not vaccinating their children. Before vaccines, parents often worried about their children catching diseases and suffering an early death. But with the success of childhood immunization programs, these problems are almost unheard of today. But parents must keep in mind that if children are not immunized, diseases that have been reduced or eliminated could reappear in today's society.


If large-scale vaccination programs were stopped, diseases that have been under control for decades would reappear with deadly results. Not only are vaccinations protecting the children of today, immunization programs are necessary to shield future generations. For example, children no longer need to receive smallpox vaccines because after years of vaccinations, the disease was eliminated. The last case of naturally occurring smallpox was found in Somalia in 1977. In the future, parents will no longer need to worry about diseases such as smallpox, meningitis, and measles as long as infants and children continue to receive vaccines.

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To become more comfortable with vaccinating your child, read over vaccine information packets, talk to your healthcare provider about the pros and cons, and discuss any questions or concerns.

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Keeping a health record of shots

One of the most important steps after immunizing your child is to keep an organized record of the vaccinations. There is no central collection of all patient immunization records. Each state has specific immunization rules for all school-age children, and in most states, it is up to the child's parent to produce legitimate records of immunizations for the health department and/or school. These records help keep your child safe and healthy; when you move or change healthcare providers, all records will be in your possession, and less likely to be lost in the shuffle. Your doctor or NP can provide you with an easy-to-use document of vaccine records, which can then be brought to each appointment to ensure that all immunization information is accurate and current.


Vaccines and autism

One of the most common misconceptions in relationship to childhood immunizations is that the vaccines can cause autism-spectrum disorders. In 1998, a British physician published an article linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, but the study was later retracted by the medical journal. The initial MMR vaccine is given at ages 12 to 15 months, which is just before the age a parent begins to notice the beginning signs of autism, but further studies concluded that this notion was not correct. Nostudies of childhood autism cases have found a direct link to the MMR vaccine.


Vaccine safety and side effects are a major concern for parents, healthcare workers, and the general public. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about immunizations.

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