Why Your Child Should Be Immunized
Since the creation of the smallpox vaccine in the late 18th century, society has been making progress in preventing the spread of horrible illnesses. Vaccines for polio, measles and influenza have saved millions of lives and protected countless people from disability or disfigurement. Without vaccinations, it could be argued that modern society would be much poorer and more frightening.
Despite the many enormous benefits that vaccines confer upon patients, there has been some debate about the safety of modern vaccines. Some critics have argued that there are dangerous materials like mercury-based thimerosal that may harm a small fraction of the inoculated. Many involved in the anti-vaccine movement point to scurrilous and unfounded reports that vaccines like MMR (mumps/measles/rubella) may cause autism.
Although there are some risks involved in vaccination including serious allergic reactions, coma or brain damage, these only occur in very, very rare cases. The most common side effects are fever, minor inflammation or muscle soreness, and the majority of these occurrences are resolved in a few days. More importantly, the proven benefits of vaccines far outweigh any potential risks.
How Vaccines Protect You
Vaccines have been one of medicine’s most important and powerful discoveries that have saved lives, prevented disability and shielded society from mass disruption. Unlike a cure which is used to remedy a patient after they have contracted an illness, a vaccine is used before you get sick to limit the risk of infection.
Vaccines work because our immune systems have “memories” in the form of antibodies. Our immune systems naturally produce antibodies when we get sick, but it may not be sufficient to fend off a full-blown illness. However, if a small amount of virus or bacteria which cause the illness is implanted, then the patient can develop an immunity without risk of illness. These antibodies remain in the body to protect against future infection.
When you get a vaccine from a doctor, you are actually being injected with a weakened form of the illness-causing pathogen. This bacteria or virus is too impotent to reproduce, so there is almost no chance of developing the illness. However, the germ is present in high enough concentrations to initiate an immune response that produces the intended antibodies.
In many cases, this initial antibody production will confer lifelong immunity, but others only last a few years. In these shorter term immunities, your physician will often periodically recommend booster shots to re-immunize you. In cases where the microorganism mutates rapidly, like influenza, you will need a new vaccine every year to protect you from the latest version of the illness.
Benefits of Vaccines
The most important reason to inoculate your child is that many of these dangerous illnesses still live on in the world in the form of communicable microorganisms. Although great headway has been made in eradicating many illnesses, it is still possible to contract many of them; more importantly, many still have no remedy or treatment. Smallpox—the first disease a vaccine was developed for—is the only known illness to be completely eliminated, but others like measles, polio and mumps have seen dramatic declines since vaccines have been used.
When you consider the risks of vaccines, you should also factor in the safety of modern vaccines. All modern vaccines are thoroughly tested and reviewed by physicians at leading medical organizations so that they present the least possible risk to as few people as possible. Although there is a modest risk of minor side effects, there is almost no risk of serious side effects. If you are concerned about the risk of autism, you should know that there has been no research linking vaccines to this developmental disorder. Furthermore, in recent years, vaccine manufacturers have stopped using thimerosal in their vaccines.
Vaccines are also the smart way to avoid costly medical bills. Under the Affordable Care Act, many common vaccines like MMR, influenza and TDaP are completely free (if you have a health plan). Most insurers are eager to get families vaccinated because the minor cost of an injection is considerably less than a long course of antibiotics or a hospitalization. You should also keep in mind that some of these illnesses pose serious, even fatal, health risks, especially to young, old and the immune-compromised.
Immunizing your children at the appropriate age also protects other members of your household. Many young or sickly people may not be candidates for immunization because of weakened immune systems, so getting people around them vaccinated helps protect your entire household.
By getting your child vaccinated, you also ensure that they avoid any administrative problems at school or college. Many schools require that students have an up-to-date set of vaccinations, and may bar those who don’t from attending. Unless you want your child to be denied entry into their educational institution, it is absolutely essential that they are immunized so that they don’t present a risk to themselves and others.
You are protecting more than just your child when you immunize them. By getting your children inoculated against highly contagious and dangerous illnesses, you are suppressing the spread of the microorganisms that cause them. By limiting the number of potential hosts, vaccines are slowly eradicating the illness. In a few generations, diseases like polio and measles could be completely gone—if enough people are vaccinated.
How to Get Vaccinated
You may not be sure when is the most appropriate time to vaccinate your child, so you should consult with your family physician. Not only can they provide a reliable schedule of when to get which shot, but they are knowledgeable enough to answer and lingering questions or concerns you may have.
You should also ask your physician or your insurer which vaccines are covered. Many of the most common vaccines are freely available through a health plan, but you may want to get protection against more uncommon diseases if you are particularly susceptible.
To learn more about vaccines, please visit Boost Health Insurance.
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