Why Your Child Needs Vaccines
When germs enter your body, your immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders called antigens. The immune system produces antibodies to fight the germs and help you get well.
Your immune system remembers the germs that made you sick, and if they ever try to infect you again — even after many years — your immune system will come to your defense again. This is called immunity. It’s what keeps you from getting sick from diseases like measles or chickenpox a second time, no matter how often you are exposed to them.
With vaccination, killed or weakened disease germs are intentionally introduced into the body, usually by injection. Then your immune system goes to work, just as if you were exposed to a disease.
Vaccines are generally safe. The protection provided by vaccines far outweighs the very low risk of serious problems. Vaccines have made many serious childhood diseases rare today.
Some vaccines may cause mild, temporary side effects, such as fever, soreness or a lump under the skin where the shot was given. Your doctor will talk to you about possible side effects with certain vaccines.
In special situations, children shouldn't be vaccinated. For example, some vaccines shouldn't be given to children who have certain types of cancer or certain diseases, or who are taking drugs that lower the body's ability to resist infection.
When should my child be vaccinated?
Recommendations about when to have your child vaccinated change from time to time. You can get a copy of the most current child and adolescent vaccination schedules from an organization such as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Or you can ask your doctor. Your child usually receives his or her first vaccine soon after he or she is born.
Benefits of vaccines
Vaccines not only help keep your child healthy, they help all children by stamping out serious childhood diseases. The more children in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread.
Even a few cases of a contagious disease in a vulnerable population could set off a major outbreak. That’s why we still vaccinate against polio, even though the U.S. has not seen a case of it in more than 10 years.
When you vaccinate your child, you aren’t just protecting him or her. You’re also protecting his or her friends, classmates, family and future generations.
Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about whether your child should receive a vaccine.
Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The AAFP and CDC are independent organizations that provide health care information.