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The Importance of Getting Back on Schedule with Routine Vaccines for Children and Adolescents

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made many parents skeptical about vaccines, especially for their children. However, vaccines have proven effective long before the pandemic, and they continue to keep people safe. Vaccines help prevent serious illness, and keeping up with your child’s routine vaccinations ensures that they stay healthier as they grow.

The Importance of Vaccines

Above all, vaccines prevent serious illnesses. Vaccines lower the risk of spreading disease, and they lower the chances of infection. Even the COVID-19 vaccine, which may not fully prevent infection, can drastically reduce the severity of illness.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a recommended vaccination schedule in 1995 that details the vaccines each child should receive before they reach age 18.  It shows when each vaccine should be administered, how many doses it requires, and other information that helps parents understand why children need these vaccines to live a healthier life. These vaccines protect your child against diseases like certain forms of hepatitis, human papillomavirus, chickenpox, and many other diseases that can harm them even later in life.

The impact of these illnesses isn’t always temporary. Many viruses live in the body long after the child has recovered. For example, chickenpox may not seem serious at first. Many children have the typical itchy rash and fever, and then they recover in about a week. However, the chickenpox virus continues to live in their bodies  and can  manifest itself decades later it in the form of shingles, a much more serious illness that can cause severe pain and other difficult complications.  When you vaccinate your child, you often protect them for the rest of their lives.

As more people opt not to vaccinate their children, some diseases that were nearly eradicated in the United States have reemerged in outbreaks, including measles. Skipping routine childhood vaccinations means that preventable diseases can spread more easily. Those diseases work their way back into communities across the globe putting more children at risk of getting sick.

Once upon a time, getting infected with a disease was the only way to become immune to it. Today, vaccines boost immunity without having to contract the disease itself. Parents should keep in mind that some diseases that no longer circulate in the United States are still common in other parts of the world. If you want to travel with your child, vaccines can prevent them from getting sick while you’re on vacation, so you can focus on enjoying your time together.

Why Vaccinate Your Child?

Children are more vulnerable to diseases than are adults and they spend much of their early years discovering the world around them. This curiosity leads to frequent hand to mouth activities and the touching of objects and surfaces that an adult may know to avoid.  That is why it is so important that parents stick to the recommended immunization schedule so that the developing immune systems of their children are better able to fight vaccine preventable diseases.

The recommended vaccination schedule includes 16 vaccines and is based on when your child will most likely have exposure to certain diseases.  These vaccines protect against 14 diseases that can become serious and some require more than one dose over time. Others are administered with the intent to allow enough time for the vaccines to work and provide maximum immunity to your child.

While we know that children can receive some natural immunity from breastfeeding, that, alone, doesn’t protect them effectively against these illnesses forever. Vaccines help fill in the gaps around natural immunity so your child can be more fully protected against preventable diseases.

The Risks of Not Vaccinating

Not vaccinating your child can pose a danger to them and their community. Your child is much more likely to become ill without the necessary vaccinations. Many potentially serious illnesses, like COVID, measles, and chickenpox, can come with complications, including long-term health problems.

Even in the short term, these diseases can have severe symptoms with life-threatening consequences. Diarrhea, for example, sounds like nothing more than a common symptom. However, it can quickly dehydrate a child. They lose electrolyteand may not know they need to drink extra fluids to replace them. If diarrhea lasts too long, it can  cause severe complications and even death.  Choosing to vaccinate your child protects their loved ones, other children, and anyone who meets them at school, daycare, or in other public spaces. Some of the people they will meet are at a higher risk of infection. When your unvaccinated child goes to grandma’s house, grandma is at risk. When they play with their immunocompromised cousin who can’t get certain vaccines, they put that cousin at risk. If you or your spouse is pregnant, some diseases, like rubella, can cause complications and harm both the pregnant person and the baby. Vaccinating your child can mean the difference between their loved ones being protected and becoming seriously ill. Ask your child’s doctor about which vaccines your child needs, so you can ensure they stay up to date.

Beyond the direct effects of illness on your child, you face financial costs when you don’t vaccinate. If your child gets very sick, you may need to stay home from work to care for them.  They may need to be hospitalized for acute care or they may suffer long-term consequences of their illness. Even if you can easily pay for long-term care, no parent wants to see their child suffer because of preventable diseases.

If your child suffers complications into adulthood, that can put a physical, mental, and financial strain on them, too. Some of these complications can cause disabling complications, even decades later.   You w can take actions today to avoid these consequences by ensuring your child receives the proper vaccinations before they encounter these illnesses along their life-span.

Protecting your child with routine vaccinations means they have a much higher chance of avoiding serious illness due to preventable diseases. Keeping to their routine vaccination schedule ensures you don’t miss any essential vaccines and can keep your child safe. To learn more about which vaccines your child needs before age 18, visit the CDC website.

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.

 


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