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The Importance Of Immunizations (vaccinations) For Children
Why immunization is important:
Immunization helps your child become immune (protected) from diseases caused by bacteria or viruses and helps protect others around him. Without immunization, the only way to become immune is to get the disease. This is dangerous because your child can develop medical problems from the disease that may be long-term or difficult to treat. Immunization helps control diseases and prevents them from coming back after they are controlled.
How immunization is done:
Inactivated (killed) or weakened forms of the virus or bacteria are given through vaccines. Vaccines are usually given as injections (shots) or nasal sprays. The vaccine will cause your child's body to produce antibodies. Antibodies are part of your child's immune system. His body will recognize the virus or bacteria if he is exposed again and will produce the same antibodies to prevent the disease.
Diseases that can be prevented by vaccines:
- Hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and influenza (flu)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Measles and mumps
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
What you need to know about immunization:
- You will get a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for each vaccine your child receives. The VIS will explain what the vaccine is for and its risks and benefits. You may be able to read the VIS before your child receives the vaccine. The VIS may be printed or delivered electronically to you.
- Vaccines are given on a recommended schedule. Your child may need some vaccines each year to protect him from new forms of a virus, such as the flu. He will receive several vaccines, starting a few weeks after birth. He will need 2 or more doses of each vaccine. Some of the vaccines are combined. He may also need boosters. Follow the immunization schedule your child's healthcare provider gives you, or bring your child in for catch-up doses.
- Some vaccines will protect your child when he is older. For example, hepatitis A is not usually a risk for children. Immunization will help protect your child from it when he is an adult.
- Some vaccines are only given for certain situations. Your child may need rabies vaccines if he is bitten by an animal that can carry rabies. He may need certain vaccines if he is traveling to another country. Tell his healthcare provider as far as possible before your child travels. The vaccines may take several weeks to become effective.
- Vaccines will not increase your child's risk for autism. Some parents worry that vaccines increase the risk for autism. Research shows there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if you have concerns about the risk for autism.
- Keep a record of the vaccines your child receives. Your healthcare provider may also keep electronic records. Records will help you make sure your child receives all the vaccines he needs, and at the right times. He may need the records to be able to enroll in school or college, or to play sports. Bring the record with you to each immunization visit.
Risks of immunization:
Rarely, a vaccine can cause the person to become sick with the disease. The area where your child got the shot may be red, swollen, or sore. These effects are usually mild and go away in a few hours. Vaccines can cause allergic reactions in some people. Tell your child's healthcare provider about all of his allergies. Tell him if your child has a weakened immune system. He will not be able to get the live forms of vaccines. Vaccines can also cause other serious health problems, such as swelling in your child's brain or paralysis.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.