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From birth, babies and young children need certain shots to help them stay healthy as they grow. Older children – even busy preteens and teens – need vaccines from time-to-time, too. Your doctor will remind you about them during an annual well-child visit.
When your children don’t get their needed shots, they have a greater risk for many deadly diseases. They can also spread these diseases to their friends and family.
Vaccines are a reliable way to prevent many diseases that were once deadly. They expose the body to a very small amount of weak or dead germs and viruses. The immune system then builds up resources to fight these bugs in the future.
Vaccines have slowed or stopped the spread of polio, measles, mumps and other diseases in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together this downloadable quick-reference chart to let you know what your child needs and when. A hundred years ago, millions of people died from a single outbreak of infectious diseases. That’s not the case today. Yet there’s still talk about the safety of vaccines. Some parents worry and refuse shots for their children. For example, a common fear is an alleged link between autism and vaccines. Trusted research has found no such link. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that vaccines do not cause autism.
One rare disease made a comeback due to a small number of parents who decided not to get their children vaccinated. It started when several children who visited an amusement park in 2014 came down with measles. That hadn’t happened in the U.S. in 15 years. Another outbreak happened in 2019 cases, this time related to airplane travel from countries where the risk of measles is higher.
“The overwhelming number of people who have gotten infected, particularly among children, are children who have not been vaccinated,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s really unfortunate because vaccination can prevent all of this. One of the things we do know about the measles vaccine is that we have one of the most effective vaccines we have for any viral disease or for any microbe.”
While we are lucky that some diseases no longer exist in the U.S., they are often only a plane ride away. For example, polio still affects some children in certain Middle-Eastern, African, and Pacific Island countries. People who are infected can spread the disease for weeks – before and after symptoms appear.
These examples highlight why the CDC says “we could soon find ourselves battling epidemics of diseases we thought we had conquered decades ago.”
When kids and adults get all of the recommended vaccines, they help protect the people around them. Along with preventing the spread of disease to friends and family, they help safeguard others, too. Very young babies, pregnant women, cancer patients, people with HIV and other conditions can all have vulnerable immune systems.
If you have concerns or questions about vaccines, talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor. That way, you can make the best decision for the health of your family and your community.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) helps infants and children get the vital immunizations they need. Through the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® initiative, BCBSIL supports the Illinois Care Van®, a mobile immunization program.
Originally published 8/10/2015; Revised 2019; 2022
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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