Article at a Glance
- Because of vaccines, diseases that once killed and maimed children are now highly preventable.
- High immunization rates allow us to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, including babies and children with compromised immune systems.
- Before you decide to delay or skip an immunization for your child, please talk to your pediatrician first so we can answer your questions and help you get the facts you need to make this important decision.
A few years ago the decision to vaccinate was easy. Parents had seen the devastation that diseases like polio, pertussis, and measles cause and wanted to make sure that their children were protected. But as the years have passed vaccines been so successful that we no longer see the devastating diseases that they prevent.
In the media we also hear claims from special interest groups that vaccines cause things like autism, attention deficit disorder, seizures, and epilepsy. Sometimes it can be hard to know whom to believe.
As pediatricians our goal is to give your child the best medical care possible. We see firsthand how vaccines save lives and protect our children from devastating illnesses. Diseases that once killed and maimed children are now highly preventable.
However these diseases are not totally eradicated; many are still very prevalent in other countries and could easily return to the United States if our immunization rates fall. The success of vaccines have given us a false sense of security, but the recent measles outbreak in Utah County was a perfect illustration of how vulnerable we still are.
We believe strongly that vaccines are the best way to protect our children and urge any parents to consider the following factors before deciding not to vaccinate their child. Most importantly, before you decide to delay or skip an immunization for your child please talk to your pediatrician first. We are here to answer your questions and help you get the facts you need to make this important decision.
Vaccines are effective
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most childhood vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective.
- Vaccinations have been so successful that we have totally eradicated small pox and been able to bring six other diseases under some level of control – diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, and measles. However, a decline in cases does not mean we should stop vaccinating for a particular disease. These diseases still exist in many parts of the world and are just a plane ride away. For example, as vaccination levels drop for diseases like pertussis and measles, health officials have seen cases of these diseases increase.
Vaccines save lives
- According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the U.S. in the last 20 years.
- Worldwide efforts to vaccinate against the measles have lead to a 75 percent reduction of deaths from measles. But even with the decline in measles, measles is still a leading cause of death for children worldwide. Sixteen children die every hour from measles. Imagine the difference that could be made by increasing vaccination rates around the globe.
Vaccines are safe
- Although ingredients like formaldehyde and aluminum can be harmful in large quantities, we are constantly being exposed to them in small quantities in our day-to-day lives. For example, breastfed babies will receive more aluminum from breast milk in a year than they will from their scheduled vaccines.
- Before a vaccine can be licensed, it has to undergo 10 or more years of testing. After it is released for use, it is closely monitored through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for any problems.
- Extensive research has been done to determine the safety of vaccines and have found that any serious side effects are incredibly rare. To put things in perspective, many commonly used, over-the-counter medications have more side effects than vaccines. It is also important to remember that most vaccines are administered during a time of life when children develop a lot of illnesses and many medical conditions are diagnosed. It does not mean that the vaccine caused the illness or the condition; it just means that they happened to occur around the same time.
- Extensive research has found no support for claims that vaccines cause autism. Vaccines and Autism: A Summary of CDC Conducted or Sponsored Studies (PDF)
- Some may argue that it is safer to allow a child’s immune system to deal with the infection naturally than to risk side effects from vaccines. However, any risk of a serious reaction to a vaccine is extremely small when compared to the serious diseases they prevent. Some diseases can even leave a person’s immune system compromised and vulnerable to other infections. For example, measles can erase your immune system’s memory, leaving it compromised for up to three years later.
Vaccines protect our communities
- For an immunization program to be successful, there needs to be a high immunization rate. If too many people are left unvaccinated, especially in one geographical area, an outbreak can occur. The decision to refuse vaccinations is not just a personal one, but it endangers the entire community.
- High immunization rates allow us to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, including babies younger than two months old for whom vaccines are not yet effective and children with compromised immune systems. When you decide to vaccinate your children, you not only protect them, but this vulnerable population.
- When a pregnant mother is vaccinated she protects her unborn child from serious birth defects that can be caused by diseases like rubella. Before the introduction of the rubella vaccine, the disease caused birth defects in as many as 20,000 babies born in the U.S. every year. Women who contacted rubella while in the first trimester were 85 percent likely to have a baby with birth defects, which included things like deafness, blindness, mental retardation, and heart defects.
Vaccines are endorsed by major medical organizations
- The most respected medical organizations in the world support the use of vaccines and assert that they are some of the safest medical products we have. Some of the organizations include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
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