Vaccines are an important component of public health and can help those who receive them build natural immunity to many common serious illnesses. Childhood immunizations prevent serious illnesses, protect communities, and save lives. The typical childhood vaccination schedule today includes immunization against more than a dozen illnesses. But why are they so important?
Ask any ER doctor why they believe in childhood vaccines, and they will tell you that they have seen firsthand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable illnesses can cause. In addition to the potential for serious illness or even death, vaccine-preventable diseases can be costly and inconvenient, resulting in a need for medical care and lost time from school and work.
Immunizing kids on the CDC-recommended schedule can help reduce or even eliminate the chance of your child catching the diseases that vaccines are available for, such as pertussis or chickenpox. Each year, millions of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths are prevented by vaccination in the United States.
Childhood immunizations have contributed to the eradication or near-eradication of many once-common illnesses in the United States, such as polio, smallpox, and diphtheria. Before the development of the vaccines for these diseases, they caused many deaths in young children and others. It is important to stay vigilant and continue to keep the population vaccinated in order to prevent further outbreaks. Even those diseases which are uncommon in the US can still be brought into the country by foreign travelers or picked up by your child on vacation.
Vaccines contribute to safer and healthier communities by creating what is known as herd immunity. Herd immunity protects those who have not yet been vaccinated, such as newborn babies and those who cannot be vaccinated due to contraindications like conditions causing immunosuppression or a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine component. Infectious disease experts like to see at least 95 percent of the population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Many parents are understandably concerned about the safety and efficacy of the childhood vaccination schedule. The good news is that vaccines have been proven safe and effective for the vast majority of the population. Numerous studies and trials have been conducted to ensure the safety of immunizations for your child. However, if you have concerns, it is always a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor about any contraindications, such as a family history of severe vaccine reactions. It is also important to report any allergic reactions or side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to help improve vaccine research and development in the years to come.