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Published: October, 2008; Vol 5, Num 5

 

A Shot in the Arm for Prevention

 

In spite of the media controversy, vaccinations continue to build stronger kids and a healthier society.

For decades, taking children to get their vaccinations was an undisputed, common practice, but unsubstantiated claims of possible links between immunization and illness circulate on the internet and may have some parents thinking twice. Unfortunately, doubt can be dangerous, both to your child and your community. Medical science fully defends the importance of immunization against polio, measles, influenza and other diseases that used to cause national epidemics.

All 50 states require children to be vaccinated before enrolling in school, but according to schedules recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), immunization should begin at birth. Mayo Clinic specialist Dr. Jay Hoecker affirms, “Childhood vaccines offer protection from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases. Early vaccination is essential because these diseases are most likely to occur when a child is very young and the risk of complications is greatest.”

Yet, with all its benefits, some parents still refuse to let their child be immunized. Some are concerned that vaccinations could lead to other health complications, such as the possible development of autism. However, the government strongly defends the safety of immunization for children. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding publically stated, “The government has made absolutely no statement indicating that vaccines are the cause of autism, as this would be a complete mischaracterization of any of the science that we have at our disposal today.”

While parents need to protect their own children from communicable disease, immunization is also a matter of good public policy. The more people get immunized for a certain disease, the fewer opportunities for the spread of infection – even among people who are not immunized. For example, in a classroom setting, if few students are vaccinated and a new student who has measles enters, many others may become infected and spread the disease to their families and friends outside the class. A community epidemic might ensue. But if 80 – 90 percent of students are vaccinated, the measles will have few opportunities to spread outside the class, and an epidemic is unlikely. Broad immunization saves a community from sickness even though a portion of it has not been properly vaccinated.

The choice to immunize a child is not just a personal matter, it also affects that child’s friends and classmates and the community at large. To learn more about vaccinations or to obtain an immunization schedule, visit the website for the CDC.

[Jennifer E. Jones]