Preparing for school means gathering supplies and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines. Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health.
More than homework might be coming home with your student.
Anytime we bring people together in close proximity, whether in the class room, on the school bus, or during before or after school activities, we share learning, experiences, and our fair share of bacteria and germs. It’s simply a fact of life. Not only is your child exposed during the school day, but when they come home at night you and their siblings get exposed too.
Don’t worry Mom. That’s why we have vaccines.
Vaccines are important for protecting children against serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. Immunizations create a shield of protection at school and at home by creating something called “herd immunity.”
This is what scientists and medical professionals call a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity.
It arises when a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, making it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few susceptible people left to infect.
Vaccines don’t just protect your child. Some diseases, like whooping cough, can be deadly for newborns or infants at home. You can help protect our littlest family members from being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases by making sure everyone in the family is up to date on their immunizations.
Thankfully, many of us have never witnessed the damaging effects of vaccine-preventable disease. As a result, we may not realize the continued importance of getting everyone vaccinated. In our parent’s or grandparent’s day, they probably had a friend or family member who was adversely affected by diseases including polio, rheumatic fever, mumps, measles, or rubella. Too many had memories of losing a sibling to whooping cough or pneumonia. When my own children were of school age (today they are 21 and 23), this was practically unheard of. We all got vaccinated. As new vaccines came out, we lined up in the nurse’s office and got our shots.
As a result, there was a time, at least in the more developed countries, where these diseases had almost completely disappeared. But today, diseases like measles and rubella are only a plane ride away. Measles epidemics are occurring in Great Britain, and rubella cases have skyrocketed in Japan. Somewhere along the line, the herd immunity broke down due to lessening vaccination rates. When that happens, disease outbreaks reoccur. In the United States, we have seen outbreaks of dangerous and highly contagious diseases like whooping cough (pertussis) when well-meaning parents elected not to vaccinate their children. As recently as 2012, the State of Washington had its worst epidemic of whooping cough in 70 years.
You might wonder how this could be. How did diseases that were almost totally irradiated in the developed world suddenly reappear? Is there something wrong with our vaccines?
Thankfully, the answer is no. Vaccines are even more effective now than back when I was a kid and today we have new vaccines to address additional diseases too. You might want to check your own vaccine card on your next checkup. Don’t be surprised if you might have missed a shot or two. (Below this article you will find the link to the schedule from the American Academy of Family Physicians with the recommended immunization schedule as well as articles from credible medical and scientific organizations documenting the safety of today’s vaccines.)
Vaccines work and the more of us who are immunized, the better they work. Remember the herd?
Back in 1998, a doctor in England (Andrew Wakefield) published a study linking the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine to autism and other diseases. It made the global news and later parents, some of them with access to television and other media, publicly blamed vaccines for these illnesses. The result was that other parents shied away from vaccinating their kids and some of those kids got sick with serious diseases that could be been prevented by vaccination. For over a decade, other scientists and physicians tried to replicate Wakefield’s study and time after time, their answers and Wakefield’s did not match. They could not get the same findings. Over a decade later, in 2011, we learned why. Wakefield failed to properly conduct his research and in addition an investigation by the British Medical Journal concluded that he misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study. The end result was that Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May of 2011. Unfortunately, the damage was done. Parents hoping to protect their children by not vaccinating, instead put both their own children and others at risk. Even today, pediatricians report that vaccine safety is one of the most common questions asked by new parents.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)… “Communities depend on high immunization coverage to keep vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading. The more parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, the greater the risk of spreading diseases. You put not only your child but also your community at risk when you decide not to vaccinate.”
That’s a pretty compelling message. Here’s the one that meant the most to me. When a new vaccine came out and our pediatrician asked if I wanted it for my kids, I simply asked him, “did you give it to YOUR kids?” When he said “yes”, I did too.
Smart Science – Good Medicine –Sound Advice
When a child comes down with a vaccine-preventable disease such as measles, whooping cough, chicken pox or the flu, he or she may miss a lot of school while recovering. In extreme cases, you and your child just might end up in the emergency room or with a longer stay at the hospital. In the best case, somebody will need to stay home to provide care and make trips to the doctor.
Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease for our kids, ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Protecting our children from preventable diseases helps keep them happy, healthy and learning.
As Mom’s, isn’t what we want?
For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children (Centers for Disease Control)
If You Choose Not to Vaccinate Your Child, Understand the Risks and Responsibilities (WHO)
Recommended Vaccine Schedules for Children and Adults (American Academy of Family Physicians)
Vaccine Safety (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Vaccine Safety: Examine the Evidence (American Academy of Pediatrics) http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/VaccineStudies.pdf
What is herd immunity? (Vaccines Today)
Improving Childhood Vaccination Rates (Douglas S. Diekema, M.D., M.P.H., the New England Journal of Medicine) http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1113008
Pertussis in Washington (Washington State Department of Health) http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/WhoopingCough.aspx