Childhood Immunizations: What They are and Why Your Child Needs Them
A healthy start begins with on-time vaccinations.
Has this ever happened to you? On the day she’s supposed to get her shots, your infant wakes up with the sniffles. You or your doctor decides to hold off on the vaccination. The opportunity slips by and, for one reason or another, your child never gets that shot.
She wouldn’t be the only one. For a variety of reasons, every year nearly one in 10 children under age 2 aren’t fully immunized against polio, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria or other preventable diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most parents catch up by the time children go to school, because most schools require up-to-date immunizations. Still, many children go unprotected in their most vulnerable years.
Overcoming confusion and fear
Some parents slip because they’re confused about when vaccinations should or should not be given. Most parents — and some physicians, as well — think that a baby with the sniffles or a low-grade fever or an ear infection should not get a shot, but these types of minor illnesses aren’t enough reason to delay an immunization.
Delays in vaccination have also occurred because of the COVID-10 pandemic. Some parents have skipped well-baby visits – which usually include vaccinations – out of fear of exposure to the coronavirus. Something to consider: While we’ve had a few cases of measles in the Bay Area over the last few years, the disease has been nearly eradicated in the U.S. thanks to vaccines. If infants stop getting vaccinated, measles – a condition with high death rates and one that disproportionately affects children – can return. Both measles and chickenpox are more easily transmitted by air than COVID. The vaccine to prevent meningitis is also very important for the same reasons.
Finally, some parents cite fear of side effects for skipping immunizations, but as we see with measles, meningitis and others conditions, the risks of the diseases prevented by vaccines are much greater than the risks of immunization, which are minimal. Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have, and they have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.
Working with your doctor
Keeping your child’s immunizations up to date requires a partnership between you and your physician. Parents should map out immunization schedules with their doctors while their baby is still a newborn. Remember that two or more shots can often be given at the same time. Your child may require up to four shots at any given visit.
A few simple suggestions can help you keep up with an immunization schedule:
- Learn the facts about vaccines and what they protect against.
- Whenever possible, have immunizations done during well-baby visits and checkups.
- Check your child’s immunization status at every visit to your doctor’s office.
- Keep your own record of immunizations in a handy, secure place. Bring it to your doctor at every visit so that it can be updated.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.