Should you vaccinate your children? This is a question that every parent is faced with almost as soon as their child is born because according to the CDC vaccination schedule, the first vaccine is given shortly after birth (HepB). This can sometimes be a controversial topic so let me fully disclose that anything contained going forward is strictly just my opinion on vaccinations for my children.
I personally have vaccinated and will continue to vaccinate both of my boys because during my short stay in nursing school, I heard something that really stuck with me. "Why would you continue taking your child to a Doctor you do not trust?". What does this have to do with vaccination? I fully trust everything that my boy's doctor believes in and he, like most, believes in fully vaccinating his patients.
There is really no concrete answer to this question because the decision lies solely on the parents so I am simply going to go over some pros and cons of vaccinations as well as some common myths that surround vaccination.
Let's get into it!
Pros and Cons of Vaccination
Bottom line, Vaccination can save your child's life. Most of the diseases that your child will be vaccinated against according to the CDC vaccination schedule can be deadly. For example, the MMR vaccine protects against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella all of which can be deadly.
Vaccination can save your family a lot of time and money. We all know medical bills are expensive, especially if you have hefty co-pays on your insurance so vaccinating your children can save you the exorbitant amount of money you would spend on medical bills if your child came down with any of the diseases the current vaccination schedule vaccinates against.
Vaccination helps protect future generations. Diseases that used to injure or kill thousands of people are now virtually eliminated or close to extinction all thanks to vaccination. For example, the last cases of naturally occurring paralytic Polio in the United States were in 1979. This is thanks to the miracle of vaccinations and parents continuing to trust their children's doctor!
Vaccinations are safe and effective. We all know that it is tough to watch our little ones receive vaccinations but if you compare that to what they would go through if they were to contract any of the diseases that they are being protected against, it is nothing.
Vaccinations can cause some discomfort. Let's face it, shots don't feel good, especially to young children. Although it can be tough to watch your little ones scream and kick from vaccinations, it is a vast difference from how you would feel if your child contracted one of the diseases that they are being vaccinated against.
Side effects. Most, if not all, mandatory vaccines can cause mild side effects that can include a sore injection site or low grade fever. These side effects should subside within a few days but can still be hard for younger children.
The government controls your decision to vaccinate. I believe that the decision to vaccinate or not should rest solely on the parents but in most states it does not because the entrance requirements for public schools in most states require your child to have the mandatory vaccinations.
Once again, the decision to vaccinate rests solely on the parent and although I have fully vaccinated both of my children and will continue to do so, I completely respect anyone's decision to not vaccinate.
Common Myths about Vaccination
Myth 1: Vaccination causes Autism
This myth originated in 1997 when an article was published by a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield. A medical journal, The Lancet, published the article directing the increased chance of autism in children towards one specific vaccine, the Measles, Mumps, and Rhubella vaccine (MMR).
The good news is that this article has since been discredited due to multiple procedural errors, ethical violations, and concealed financial conflicts of interest (sounds like a kickback deal to me!). Dr. Wakefield also lost his medical license and the paper was removed from The Lancet.
The bad news is that this article was taken very seriously by the medical community, causing many other major studies to be conducted eventually leading to the discovery that there was no actual link between any vaccine and the likelihood of children developing autism from administration of said vaccine.
The true cause of autism continues to remain a mystery but to the disprove of this myth, several studies have identified symptoms of autism in children well before they are ever given the MMR vaccine.
Myth 2: Children's immune systems cannot handle so many vaccinations
Children are, in most cases, are a lot more resilient than most parents think (myself included) and this goes for their immune systems as well. For example, based on the amount of antibodies present in the blood of an infant, they would have the ability to respond to around 10,000 vaccines at one time. The CDC recommends 14 scheduled vaccines and even if a baby received all of those vaccines at once, it would only use up about 0.1% of their immune system (Not to mention I would never be able to sit through my babies getting 14 injections at once!). The notion that a child's immune system "can't handle" vaccinations is a little far fetched because scientists believe an "immune system capacity" is purely theoretical.
Myth 3: Vaccinating your child isn't worth the risk
As a parent, I can completely understand wanting the best for your child and even when it comes to giving my boys Tylenol, I try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary but when it comes to vaccinations, children have been successfully vaccinated for a long time so I am personally confident that there aren't any quantifiable risks.
When it comes to immediate danger of vaccines, speaking in terms of serious side effects or allergic reactions, the incidence of death are so rare they can't even be calculated. For example, there was only one death reported to the CDC between 1990-1992 that was caused directly from a vaccine. The chances of a severe allergic reaction directly related to a vaccine is around one in every one to two million injections.
Myth 4: Why vaccinate against diseases/infections that aren't around anymore?
I have heard this one a lot, "Why should I vaccinate my children against diseases that haven't been around for years"? What they don't realize is that thanks to Community Immunity, as long as a large portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of that community will be protected against that disease because there is very little opportunity for an outbreak.
As far as specific diseases/infections not being around anymore, the CDC warns that international travel is rapidly growing, so even if a disease is not a threat in the United States, it can very well be common in another country. If an individual were to bring in a disease from another country, someone who has not been vaccinated will be at a much greater risk of contracting said disease.
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