The importance of getting your children and sometimes yourselves vaccinated to protect your children from vaccine preventable diseases cannot be overemphasized. Each person who is immunized in a community increases what is called a 'herd immunity,' preventing the spread of a disease by having fewer susceptible individuals therby breaking the chain of the infection cycle, and providing a level of protection to those who cannot get vaccinated due to a low immune system, age or pregnancy. I would like to address some questions I am often asked.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes, they are safe. They’ve been studied for their safety as well as their ability to prevent diseases that have the potential of making children very ill – possibly causing death in some cases.
Because of vaccination, many diseases fortunately no longer exist in the general population. Smallpox has been eradicated as a direct result of vaccinating, and polio has been eliminated from 99 percent of the world. Other diseases such as mumps and chicken pox have been decreased significantly and we see fewer cases but we have to keep immunizing because if we don’t, we lose that important level of immunity, and the disease can come back – as we’ve recently seen with measles.
Why do parents still choose not to get their children immunized?
Unfortunately, there’s some misinformation that has caused people to make false assumptions. A 1998 falsified study published in a British medical journal The Lancet suggested a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism, a study that has since been discredited and proven to be scientifically untrue. Many other studies since have also validated the safety of MMR.
Over the years, there also have been incorrect parallels drawn between reactions to certain vaccines that happened to coincide with unrelated conditions that children already had. The pertussis vaccine was incorrectly associated with causing seizures and neurological problems in some children but it was later confirmed that those children had a form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.
Which areas of the country fall short in following through with immunization?
Throughout the country, the rates are not as good as we’d like to see them. States have different immunization laws, which can lead to such trends.
Is it ok to space out vaccines?
Spacing out and delaying vaccinations is very dangerous. Parents worry that they might be overloading their babies’ immune systems but that’s not true. It’s important to go by the standard vaccine schedule approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’ve looked at which vaccines are appropriate and safe to give and at what ages because those are the ages when infection is most likely to occur. Any delay puts the child at increased risk. There are no alternative schedules; theirs is the standard schedule, and all others are “dangerous schedules.” For information on what the recommended vaccination timetable is, you can go to the AAP’s immunization webpage.
Q: Where can you go to find free or low-cost vaccines?
A: Children who are on Medicaid are covered for recommended vaccines, and most insurance companies cover necessary immunizations. For those who do not have insurance, the local health department offers them through the Florida Vaccines for Children program.