Vaccines are not only important for your child’s health, but also for the general public’s health. Some people are unable to be vaccinated because they are too young, have an allergy to vaccine components or have other illness or immune deficiencies. These people rely on something called herd immunity to protect them. What is herd immunity? If all of the children and adults, who are able to be vaccinated, do so, then the chance of deadly diseases spreading is much lower.
The diseases we vaccinate against in childhood, including MMR and varicella, can cause great harm. These diseases can lead to disabilities like paralysis, blindness, brain damage and deafness. They can also lead to death. Infants too young to be immunized are especially at risk of the serious illnesses. Herd immunity is very important for those children.
Vaccines can cause some minor side effects such as:
- Low-grade fever 24 hours after receiving the vaccination
- Mild discomfort at the site of injection
- Mild redness or a bump, lasting a few days to a week
There is also a concern that infants, in particular, are receiving too many vaccinations in a short period of time; that the immune system could be overwhelmed. The recommended vaccine schedule has been studied for effectiveness and safety. While it is true that they are receiving many vaccinations during the first year of life, the amount of immunological components, the things that stimulate the immune system to respond, are much smaller than what they would have received many years ago. It is also much less than what a normal child is exposed to throughout the course of a normal day. The things a baby touches are covered with bacteria and viral particles. The immune system is working constantly to respond to these particles, which amounts to much more stimulation of the immune system than what a baby receives in all of the childhood vaccines combined.
One of the largest falsehoods about vaccines is that they are linked to autism. Autism is not caused by vaccines and the initial and only study linking the two has been discredited. There have also been many studies showing just the opposite—that vaccines do not cause autism.
The importance of vaccines and vaccine safety is something that we as physicians (and parents) take very seriously. We all want to do what is best for our children and the community. Parents should always feel comfortable to have a discussion with their child’s pediatrician whenever they have questions or concerns.