Many parents believe that immunizing their child increases the risk of certain medical conditions such as autism. However, not immunizing your child puts him at an even higher risk of contracting life-threatening illnesses. Ultimately, vaccinating your child is up to you, but following the immunization schedule supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics is one of the best ways to protect your child from contagious diseases.
Importance and Types
Most parents haven't witnessed the damage that many childhood diseases can cause. Polio can cause paralysis, meningitis can lead to brain damage and measles can cause a child to become deaf. Vaccines are meant to protect your child from those, and other, devastating illnesses -- many of which can cause death. You might be concerned that your child is being injected with a live virus, however. That's not the case. According to KidsHealth.org, immunizations come in four main types. Attenuated vaccines are weakened forms of certain diseases, such as measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR. Dead viruses and bacteria are used in other vaccines, and toxoid vaccines are made with inactivated toxins produced by certain bacteria such as diphtheria and tetanus. Conjugate vaccines are a combination of bacteria and certain proteins that work together to protect your child.
If you've heard that many diseases and illnesses are no longer a threat because they've all but disappeared, you're partly right. The reason that so many of those diseases aren't such a threat is because the vast majority of parents have been vaccinating their children. The more children being vaccinated, the lower the risk of anyone contracting these illnesses. The fact is that these diseases haven't been wiped off the planet, and if your child isn't immunized, his risk of contracting them is higher. It might not be highly likely, but the risk is there. One of the best ways to protect your child is through vaccinations.
To adequately protect your child, most pediatricians recommend that you follow the vaccine schedule supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Each immunization is scheduled according to what age the vaccine is likely to offer the most protection, as well as what the earliest age is to get your child protected. Your child also receives three or four doses of each vaccine because the spacing helps offer maximum protection. Many parents are concerned about the sheer number of shots their child receives in the first few years of life, but the schedule is designed to offer the most protection in the least amount of time.
Side effects of vaccines is another concern that many parents have. According to KidsHealth.org., immunizations use weak or dead versions of the illnesses so they're highly unlikely to cause a serious reaction. Certain vaccines might cause a mild reaction, though that's not common either. A mild reaction might include soreness in the injection site or a fever. If your child develops either of those symptoms, call her pediatrician. Always tell your child's doctor whether your child has any allergies because that can affect what immunizations he gets. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include skin changes and breathing problems. If your child displays those symptoms after an immunization, call his pediatrician right away.
Correlations with Autism
Perhaps the biggest concern with immunizing children is the fear that certain vaccines, most notably the MMR shot, can cause autism. A 2011 article published in the "British Medical Journal" reports that the original article stating a correlation between the MMR shot and autism were false and lacked scientific support. According to a 2010 article published in the journal "Pediatrics," thimerosal, the substance in vaccines that's blamed for autism, doesn't increase a child's risk of developing the disorder.