08-03-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and with it comes increased information about the importance of childhood vaccinations. With immunizations required for school attendance this fall, it’s important to understand why they are important to the health of your child and know the recommended schedule for immunizations in Ohio.
How do vaccinations work?
Vaccinations work by administering a dead or weakened version of the virus to the child. The body is then able to produce antibodies to fight this weakened virus. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are prepared to fight off the virus in the same way they fought the vaccine’s dead one. This is called immunity.
Why should I vaccinate my child?
The absence of an illness in the US does not mean that it is no longer an issue. Even if the virus is no longer present in the US it is still important to get vaccinated to prevent illness. There are numerous other countries that are still attempting to vaccinate its entire population. If your child comes into contact with one other person carrying the illness, without a vaccine they will quickly be affected.
Numerous parents are concerned about the potential side effects of vaccinating their child. While it is true that some vaccinations may cause pain and inflammation, the consequences of not vaccinating could be much more severe.
Sherman Alter MD, medical director infectious diseases at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton agrees that “there is no denying the importance of vaccines”. “Vaccines protect you from diseases without subjecting you to the serious symptoms of that illness,”
Recently, the chicken pox vaccine (also known as the varicella vaccination) has nearly eliminated all deaths from the virus. It became mandatory for all children attending public schools in 1995 and since then the death toll from the chicken pox has continued to fall. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta found the mortality rate fell 97% in adolescents younger than 20.
Dr. Alter was instrumental in the passage of legislation in Ohio requiring students to provide written verification of immunization against chicken pox within 14 days of entering kindergarten, beginning in the 2006-2007 school year.
Dr. Alter regularly discusses common myths about vaccinations with the parents of his patients. A few of the most common myths are:
- Vaccines don’t work. This is false. Most occurrences of diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and whooping cough and now chicken pox have dramatically decreased since the introduction of the vaccines preventing each disease.
- Vaccines aren’t necessary. Diseases that are prevented by vaccines still occur in the United States. If a child is not vaccinated against that disease, they are more likely to contract it. High immunization levels explain the dramatic decrease in outbreaks. If children are not properly vaccinated, the immunization level will decline and outbreaks of the disease will increase.
- Vaccines aren’t safe. While some parents may worry about the side effects of vaccines, it’s important to note that pharmaceutical companies are under the strict supervision of the FDA. Vaccines are tested for years before they are approved and all recommended vaccines are completely safe. Observation of vaccines and their safety in children also continues after the vaccine is in use.
- Infants are too young to be vaccinated. Many vaccine-preventable diseases strike children under the age of 2.
- Vaccines weaken the immune system. Natural infections of certain viruses like chicken pox and measles without a doubt weaken the immune system; however, the viruses in vaccines are different from the “wild” virus of the natural infection. Viruses in vaccines have been altered to the point where they will not weaken the immune system.
- Vaccines cause autism. This claim has recently been retracted and there is no longer a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Studies found that the only connection between these events is age. The MMR vaccine is usually given to children around 15-months old and the early signs of autism generally begin to show at about 2 years of age.
“The bottom line is that it’s important for parents to have their children vaccinated according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control,” Dr. Alter says. “A brief period of slight discomfort outweighs a lifetime of disease, disability or even death.”
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