Why Vaccination Is One of the Best Choices You Can Make As a Parent
Content adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
As parents, we want to do what is best for our kids. We want to keep our little ones safe and healthy so that they can grow, learn, and be kids. We know about the importance of car seats, baby gates, and other ways to keep babies and young children safe. But did you know that one of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure they receive all of their vaccinations? During National Immunization Awareness Month, we share a few reasons why vaccination is one of the best and most important things you can do to protect your child.
1. Immunization has the power to save your child’s life.
Because of advances in medical science, your child can be protected against more diseases than ever before in history. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children are no longer common in the U.S. – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Polio is one example of the great impact that vaccines have had in the United States. Polio was once America’s most feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country. Parents were scared to let their children out of the house for fear that they would contract the disease. But thanks to vaccination, there have been no recent reports of polio in the U.S. Due to worldwide vaccination efforts, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where endemic wild poliovirus still exists, and only small pockets of polio still exist in these countries. It is important to get your child’s polio vaccine, as the virus is just a plane ride away. The best way to keep the U.S. polio-free is to maintain high immunity (protection) against polio through vaccination.
2. Vaccination is safe and effective.
Vaccines are only given to children after careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals. In fact, the U.S. has one of the most robust vaccine safety testing and monitoring systems in the world. Vaccine side effects are almost always mild (like redness, low-grade fever or swelling at the site of the shot), but these side effects are minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and risk of injury and death from the diseases that vaccines prevent. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The individual and community disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccinated are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children, and the decision not to vaccinate comes with great risk.
3. Immunization protects your family and your community.
Children in the U.S. still get vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, there have been resurgences of whooping cough (pertussis) and measles over the past few years. For example, nearly 49,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States in 2012. The state of Colorado experienced a whooping cough epidemic from 2012-2014, with the highest number of cases since the 1950s. In 2014 and 2015, a measles outbreak that began at a California amusement park sickened more than 855 people in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Almost one in 10 people who became sick with measles during this outbreak were babies too young to be vaccinated.
While babies are too young to be fully protected by vaccination, others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies or weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia and other kinds of immune-suppressing illnesses. Through herd immunity, those who can be vaccinated provide a protective shield around them, preventing the spread of contagious disease to vulnerable individuals. Vaccination not only protects your children, but also helps prevent the spread of illness to your family, loved ones, and those in your community.
4. Immunizations can save your family time and money.
A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or child care facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll on families because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care. There are societal costs to not vaccinating, too. For instance, hospital and emergency department charges to treat children with vaccine-preventable diseases in 2015 in Colorado totaled more than $35 million. In contrast, vaccines save $211 million in direct costs and 652 lives each year in Colorado. Getting your child vaccinated can save your family from potential emergency room and hospital visits, keep you from taking time off work and potentially losing pay, and keep your child healthy, in school, and ready to learn. Vaccination is typically covered by insurance, but there are options for those without insurance, including the Vaccines for Children program, a federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from low-income families. In Colorado, local health departments offer immunization clinics. The Shots for Tots and Teens Program serves uninsured, Medicaid, CHP+, and some privately insured patients, offering low-cost immunizations to children and teens around the Metro Denver area.
5. Immunization protects future generations.
Vaccines are truly one of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st century. Vaccines have drastically reduced the presence of some diseases and eliminated others—diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, vaccination against smallpox eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists anywhere in the world. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), we have dramatically reduced the risk of pregnant women passing this virus on to their newborn. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating fully, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases that still exist and pose risk today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future.
Talk to your child’s doctor about the vaccines recommended to keep them protected. For more information about the importance of infant immunization, visit CDC’s vaccine website for parents.