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Immunizations: Children Need Appropriate Immunizations


Walt Larimore, M.D.

When it comes to protecting children against disease and ill health, vaccines are widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to prevent many common childhood diseases.  Yet many parents do not understand the concept of population immunization and know little about the diseases against which their children are being vaccinated.  In order for your children to become highly healthy you must be well-informed.  If you know little about vaccinations or are making vaccination-related decisions based on inaccurate information, you risk harming your child. 

Childhood vaccinations in the United States have dramatically reduced diseases such as whooping cough, mumps, polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and chicken pox. 

Because we have so little experience with these diseases today (smallpox, for example, hasn't been seen for decades), it is easy to forget how serious theses illnesses can be.  And, unfortunately, some of the most easily accessed information confuses the issue.  More than two-thirds of adults in the United States use the Internet to find health-related information.  Yet research shows that less then 20 percent of medical information on the Internet is reliable and authoritative according to medical profession standards.  Due to way Internet search engines link websites, well-meaning but unsuspecting parents searching the Web may be sent first to inaccurate, misleading, or downright false information. 

So what's the truth about vaccinations?  At a time when most parents are having their children vaccinated, parents who refuse to vaccinate wrongly think that their children are probably safe without the vaccine and that their refusal does not affect other children.  Although the disease may still occur in small numbers, chances are low that any children --vaccinated or not--will get the disease.  However, as increasing numbers of parents choose not to vaccinate, everything changes.  When vaccination levels fall below 90 percent or so in any given region, parents who do not vaccinate their children put their children and other unvaccinated children at higher risk for illness.  For example, in the United States, unvaccinated children are about twenty-two times as likely to acquire measles and six times as likely to acquire whooping cough as vaccinated children.

Falling vaccination rates in many areas of the United States lend credibility to fears that previously common and now preventable diseases will once again affect our children.  Most parents today have never seen a case of measles, mumps, German measles, polio diphtheria, tetanus, or whooping cough.  So it's understandable that some would question the continued need for vaccines.  But even if the incidence of disease is low, there are still three important reasons for immunizations. 

1.  Some diseases (such as chicken pox) are still so prevalent in this country that a decision not to be immunized is tantamount to a decision to get the disease. 

2.  Some diseases (such as measles, mumps, German measles, and pertussis) continue to occur but at fairly low levels.  If immunization rates drop, outbreaks of these diseases will again occur, and children will die.

3.  Some diseases (such as polio and diphtheria) have been virtually eliminated from this    country, but outbreaks of these diseases still occur in other countries.  Given the high rate   of international travel, travelers and immigrants could easily import these diseases. 

Falling vaccination rates in many areas of the United States lend credibility to fears that previously common and now preventable diseases will once again affect our children.  Most parents today have never seen a case of measles, mumps, German measles, polio diphtheria, tetanus, or whooping cough.  So it's understandable that some would question the continued need for vaccines.  But even if the incidence of disease is low, there are still three important reasons for immunizations. 

Most childhood immunizations are given during the first two years of life, some within hours of birth.  Some preschool programs and virtually all schools require proof of immunization before a child can be admitted to school--unless a child has a physician's exemption.  Check with you children's doctor or your local health department to find out which shots they need.  Shots for children are also available at most public health clinics, where they are either inexpensive or free. 

One immunization many parents don't consider for their children is the annual influenza (flu) shot--which is unfortunate because most experts believe that flu epidemics begin and spread to adults from younger children.  In addition, because young and otherwise healthy children are at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommend influenza vaccination of healthy children ages six months to twenty-three months.  For children over age two, the vaccine is optional. 

The possibility of outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases frightens me.  Immunizations are essential for highly healthy children. 

Taken with permission from Walt Larimore, M.D. with Stephen & Amanda Sorenson, God's Design for the Highly Healthy Child (Zondervan)

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.

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