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Vaccinate According to Schedule for Best Protection

By Christine Vara

Whether your child is four days, two months, or 42 years old, as a parent you will always feel the need to protect them.  After all, no one has a bigger interest in the life of a child than their parent.  When it comes to my own five children, I try to protect them from preventable disease the best way that I can, realizing there is only so much that I can control.  For instance, I am so militant about my hand washing rule that before my four-year old eats, she now willingly proves that she has washed her hands by sticking them in front of my face and saying, “Smell mommy. See? I wash my hands.” 

I’ve realized that despite the good food I prepare and the healthy habits I try to instill, germs and viruses are everywhere. Good health for our children is a constant struggle – a struggle within their own immune systems.  It’s not uncommon for kids to get run down as a result of their active lifestyle, and if they’re not getting enough rest their bodies become less effective at combating disease. That is why I inquire with my doctor about ways that I can further protect my children from unnecessary illness.  As my youngest daughter turns five next week, she’s preparing to enter kindergarten and I’ve begun preparing myself for her vaccinations by researching the current recommendations prior to her well visit. 

In conversations with others, I’ve learned that some parents are worried about the number of vaccines that their children need to receive, as well as multiple vaccines suggested in one visit. Some parents decide to forego the recommended schedule and “space out” the shots, concerned that multiple vaccinations might overwhelm a child’s immune system.   While it seems reasonable for parents to have these concerns, doctors explain that an infant’s immune system can handle many more vaccines than are actually given at one time.  In a recent article in this month’s Parents magazine, one doctor explains that “young children are exposed to more antigens – bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other substances that can stimulate disease-fighting antibodies – in a single day of eating, playing, and breathing than they are through immunizations.”  The article, entitled “Vaccines:  The Reality Behind the Debate”, provides an excellent overview of the concerns that many parents have when it comes time to vaccinate their children, and it presents a clear understanding of the perceived risks, as well as the medical benefits of vaccines.

It’s important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a recommended schedule  based upon the need to protect our children by the age when they are most vulnerable to the diseases we are vaccinating them against.  It is the high number of hospitalizations and deaths in children that even justified the years of research required to create these vaccines.  Therefore, the CDC recommends completing the series of immunizations prior to when the child is at the greatest risk. 

Sometimes this includes multiple immunizations that are offered in one combination, such as the DTaP.  While this also seems to raise concerns from some parents, once again the research shows a track record of safety and effectiveness for these vaccines.  Extensive testing ensures that the ingredients for each vaccine do not interfere with one another in combination.  Thus, they remain safe, while also being more convenient.  One shot versus three sounds like a benefit to me. 

Hopefully parents will begin to understand that when we alter the vaccination schedule we actually leave our children open to infection without providing any benefit to the child.  This involves taking chances – assuming that our own schedule will be safe and effective, while ignoring the recommendations of doctors and scientists who have extensive knowledge about vaccine development.  If you are still uncertain about the recommended schedule, check out the video Q&As on vaccinateyourbaby.org  and hear the simple, straightforward explanations from specialists in the field.   

As parents, we must continue to hold our children’s best interest at heart.  That includes learning about preventable disease, understanding the benefits of vaccines and doing our part to protect our children from unnecessary suffering and illness.  Taking the time to understand the correlation between these things will allow us to engage in healthy dialogue directly with our health care providers as well as with one another.

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