Nearly 4 million babies are born in the United States every year, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends child vaccinations against 16 vaccine-preventable diseases. Unfortunately, not all parents ensure their children are properly immunized.
KEEPING KIDS HEALTHY
Before vaccinations became widely available, diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough were common in childhood, leaving thousands of children blind, deaf, brain-damaged or even dead. Today, vaccines have almost completely wiped out these major diseases.
WHAT IS A VACCINATION?
A vaccination (or immunization) includes an imitation virus, usually a live but weakened virus, or an inactive bacterial virus. This administration provides protection against serious diseases. The virus triggers antibody production, which targets harmful elements in the body’s immune defense. In the fight against imitation viruses, antibodies learn to recognize the real virus for future combat. Researchers have found that live virus vaccinations seem to provide longer immunity than inactive ones.
Vaccinations are usually administered in one of two ways: orally or by injection. Doctors have found that vaccines administered orally tend to have a higher chance of side effects and allergic reactions than injected vaccines.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
Overall, vaccines are safe to administer and typically only cause minor side effects. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the risk of effects related to actually contracting a disease is much more dangerous than the risk of having a reaction to a vaccination. However, there have been a few cases of reactions in small children, such as:
- Extremely high fever—A rectal temperature reading of 105 degrees or more
- Inconsolable crying—More than three hours of crying without stopping, or an abnormal cry
- Convulsions—Full-body shaking, twitching or jerking in response to a high fever
- Severe allergic reactions—Swelling in the mouth and throat, wheezing, breathing difficulties, dizziness, paleness or limpness
Should your child suffer from any of the above symptoms after receiving their vaccinations, call your doctor immediately.
While the United States has eradicated many infectious diseases, the bacteria and viruses responsible for these diseases still exist. These bacteria and viruses may affect people who are not protected by vaccines. Vaccinations are necessary because they can prevent repeated epidemics of infectious diseases.
DO I NEED TO VACCINATE?
Experts advise routine vaccination for all children against 16 harmful diseases. Currently, most children in the United States receive recommended vaccinations, which aid in controlling infectious diseases that were once prevalent and lethal.
Scientists, doctors and other health care professionals extensively test vaccines to make sure they are safe and effective before putting them on the market. In the United States, the FDA reviews all the test results to decide if it will approve a vaccine for use.
WHEN SHOULD I VACCINATE?
Newborns are immune to many diseases because of antibodies they have acquired from their mothers while in the womb. These antibodies only last between about a month to a year after birth, so it is best to vaccinate your children as babies. However, it’s still important to have your children vaccinated, even if you don’t do it when they are babies or very young. Vaccinating them later is better than not vaccinating them at all.
By vaccinating your children when recommended, you will have to worry less about them becoming infected or infecting others, especially once they begin attending school, which increases their risk.
Vaccinations are covered by most insurance programs, but because of their importance they are available even to those without insurance. If you lack insurance and cannot afford your child’s vaccinations, get in contact with your city, county, or state health department. They can help you find a place to have your child immunized where it will be inexpensive or even free.
If you are unsure when you should take your child in for vaccinations, call your health care provider for information and vaccination schedules. Contact our Care Coordinators if you need assistance in locating a physician to discuss vaccinating your children or if you have questions about your plan coverage. More information is also available at www.cdc.gov/vaccines or by calling 800-232-4636.