by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Are vaccines important today? The short answer is, absolutely. As a parent it is one of the most important things you can do for your child. It could even be the greatest gift you will ever give them.
Vaccines are very weak or dead versions of the germs, also know as antigen, that are injected into the body. By injecting these weak or dead antigens into the body an immune response is stimulated. Because the antigens are so weak or dead they can’t produce the symptoms of the disease, however, they can stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to recognize the disease and stores them for future use. Then later when the body is exposed to a particular antigen the immune system already has the ability to recognize the intruder and begins producing the antibodies needed to over power and defeat the invader. The vaccines available today are safer than ever before and the risks associated with not vaccinating your child are far greater than if you do vaccinate. Side effects are very rare, the truth is there is less chance of side effects from vaccines than from most every other medication on the market today.
The number of people opting not to vaccinate their children has been growing in recent years. Some feel the diseases no longer exist or pose a threat therefore the vaccines are unnecessary, others have religious or philosophical objections. The fact is the only children that should not be vaccinated are those that have know medical issues that could cause problems. These would include children that are currently receiving treatment for certain cancers or diseases and anyone else taking medications that suppress the immune system. Your doctor will be able to guide you in these cases.
The problem that many parents and other adults don’t think about or realize is that when a child is not vaccinated it’s not only that child that is at risk, but everyone around them. The vaccine schedule begins around 2 months and is usually completed around 6 yrs. Most parents and adults believe once the schedule is completed that’s the end and no need to worry. The truth is many of the vaccines wear off after 10 yrs, some last longer but most are no longer fully effective once we reach adulthood. These vaccines require boosters to maintain effectiveness. As very few adults are aware that they need boosters or that they are available they don’t get them. This means that adults that haven’t received boosters are just as susceptible as the unvaccinated child. Infants exposed to a child that has become infected by any pathogen are at high risk for contracting the same pathogen as their immune systems are not yet developed enough to fight against infection. Infants that are exposed to the potentially serious infections that vaccines protect against are at an even greater risk of death.
It is this potential for proliferation that has concerned the health community. Diseases like polio that were close to being eradicated are again being seen with more frequency as parents opt to not vaccinate and thus exposes the adults and unprotected infants to the pathogens.
You can get a vaccination schedule from your doctor or local community health office. They can also provide you with information on what and when boosters are needed to remain safely protected throughout your life.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.