Your baby has an appointment for her latest round of shots. The wind is howling, the temperature is dropping, and you’d really rather just stay home and get some much-needed rest. What’s the harm in skipping this round of shots?
Actually, there’s a lot of potential harm in that decision.
From infancy to preschool and beyond, keeping your child healthy means following the vaccination schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s designed to protect against serious diseases—like polio, whooping cough and mumps—that can result in a hospital stay or even death.
“It’s critical to make sure your child is completely vaccinated against these vaccine-preventable diseases, and that means finishing the entire series of recommended shots,” says Elif E. Oker, MD, a medical director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “That is the only way to be immunized from these very serious diseases.”
If you are worried about the safety of vaccines, please don’t be. Studies have shown they are safe. But veering from the shot schedule is not. Kids who have none or only a few shots can still get sick. That was the case with an outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in 2015 and eventually sickened 147 people in six states, Mexico and Canada.
“The resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough have been linked to people who’ve chosen not to vaccinate their children or themselves,” Dr. Oker says. “Life-threatening diseases we thought were under control are coming back.”
It also can be dangerous to depend on other people’s shots keep your unvaccinated child from getting sick. That only works when almost everyone else has had their shots. So the more people who skip them, even just ONE of them, the less likely everyone is safe.
OK, so you’re on board with the shots, but can’t you skip a few of those trips to get more doses of the same vaccine? Isn’t one enough?
Nope, not if you want the full protection.
Vaccines stop diseases by safely imitating an infection so the body builds up immunity to it. But many vaccines require more than one dose to build complete immunity. So one shot of those is simply not enough. For example, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—known as MMR—is given around the first birthday, again before starting school and a booster is recommended for adults.
One exception is the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, recommended for boys and girls to prevent cervical and other cancers. The CDC recommends the three-shot series begin around age 11 or 12 and be given at carefully timed intervals.
The bottom line for new parents (and not-so-new ones) is that a vaccine schedule can interrupt your very busy life. But following it closely can help you raise a healthy child from infancy to adulthood.
Be sure to talk to your pediatrician to make sure your child’s shots are up to date. You also can keep track of all your family’s vaccinations in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthy Family app, available in the App Store, Google Play or by texting HF to 33633.
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