Immunizations have had a dramatic effect in improving the health of children in the United States.
Most parents today have never seen the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a child, a family or community.
“Early in my career, in the 1980s, I frequently witnessed the devastating effects of invasive Haemophilus disease. With the advent of Hib vaccine, invasive Haemophilus disease is extremely uncommon,” said William L. Trager, MD, Sheboygan Pediatrics Associates. “While these diseases remain uncommon in the U.S., it is important that we continue to protect our children with vaccines because outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like pertussis, mumps, and measles can and do occur in this country.”
Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, and, in some cases can be deadly — especially in infants and young children.
Most parents know that one of the most important steps they can take to protect their children is to vaccinate them against dangerous diseases. But knowing what to vaccinate against and when to do so can be a complicated process. Talking to your child’s doctor, during his/her check-up is a great way to learn about immunizations and ensuring that your child is protected prior to going to a day care facility or school.
“When children are not immunized, the results can be devastating,” said Dr. Trager, MD. “Making sure your children are properly immunized will give them up to a 98 percent chance of avoiding many diseases.”
There is so much information and misinformation in the news and worldwide web concerning immunization that parents are often confused and unsure of what to do. “This is where I come in. It is my responsibility to help parents sort through the information – for their peace-of-mind, their child’s health and safety and for the health and safety of the community,” said Dr. Trager.
“Parents often ask me about the safety of vaccines and the importance of the timing in which they are administrated. As a pediatrician and father of four children, I understand their concerns,” said Dr. Trager. Safety is at the very core of the science and development of vaccines. All vaccines must be tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will not allow a vaccine to be given unless it is proven to be safe and work well in children. Before a vaccine is officially recommended for children the data is reviewed again by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
In addition, the FDA monitors where and how vaccines are made. The places where vaccines are made must be licensed and are regularly inspected. In addition, each vaccine lot is safety-tested. “These tremendous safeguards are developed, monitored and upheld to ensure that what we use to vaccinate our children is not only safe but proven effective,” added Dr. Trager.
Although the number of vaccines a child needs in his/her first two years may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines at the recommended times. “The recommended immunization schedule is designed to offer protection early in life when babies are most vulnerable and before it’s likely for them to be exposed to diseases,” said Dr. Trager.
While many parents choose to delay vaccinations, Dr. Trager cautions parents against delaying vaccination. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.”
When parents choose not to vaccinate, or follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, such as measles and whooping cough. According to the CDC, nearly 21,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States and during this time, six deaths were reported.
As of October 31, 2014, 603 people from 22 states in the U.S. were diagnosed with measles. This is the largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.
“Further, when I see an unimmunized infant or child, who is ill with a fever, I am always more concerned whether the child has contracted an invasive disease that was vaccine-preventable. This can often lead to invasive, expensive testing.
Understandably, there are some children with certain health problems who are not able to get some of the vaccines or may need to get them later. Since each child is unique and may present different health considerations, Dr. Trager urges parents to talk with their child’s doctor. “Make sure you are talking to your child’s doctor and asking questions about things you may not understand – it is the most important thing you can do for your child.”
Making sure your child is vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to protect your child’s health. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records.
For more information about vaccines, visit:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Family Physicians
Food and Drug Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Network for Immunization Information