You would do anything to protect your baby. You put up baby gates, cover electrical outlets, and strap him in his car seat every time you go for a ride. When it comes to keeping him healthy, immunization gives you the power to protect him from 14 serious childhood diseases before he turns two years old.
Diseases that can be prevented with vaccines can be very serious – even deadly – especially for infants and young children. Because vaccines have been so successful, you may never have seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases. For example, here in the United States we are experiencing the worst whooping cough outbreak in 50 years. From January through mid-October 2012, about 32,000 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) were reported, along with 16 deaths. Most of those deaths were among babies younger than 3 months old.
Protecting your Child Early
You may wonder why your child needs so many shots at such a young age. The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from medical and public health experts. This schedule also is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
To be fully immunized, children need to get all of their doses of each vaccine according to CDC’s recommended schedule. Children with certain medical conditions—such as sickle cell disease—may need extra doses of some vaccines.
Check with your child’s doctor to find out if your baby is due for any vaccinations. Or, you can use this online tool to enter your child's current record and quickly see if he has missed any doses.
The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. Before a vaccine is approved and given to children, it is tested extensively. Scientists and medical professionals carefully evaluate all the available information about the vaccine to determine its safety and effectiveness. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated.
Even though you know vaccines are keeping your child safe from diseases, it can still be hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. While there may be some discomfort or tenderness at the injection site, this is minor compared to the serious complications that can result from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare.
Protecting your Community
Getting your child vaccinated helps protect others in your community—like your neighbor who has cancer and cannot get certain vaccines, or your best friend’s newborn baby who is too young to be fully vaccinated. When everyone in a community who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, it helps to prevent the spread of disease. Choosing to protect your child with vaccines is also a choice to help protect your family, friends, and neighbors, too.
Paying for Vaccines
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccinations. If you don't have health insurance, or if your insurance does not cover vaccinations, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help with the cost. VFC provides vaccinations at no cost to eligible children. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are:
• American Indian or Alaska Native,
• Underinsured and vaccinated in Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics.
Most pediatricians in the United States participate in VFC. Many family practice doctors also participate. If your child does not have a doctor, you may also obtain free vaccines from your local health department or from a Federally Qualified Health Clinic or State’s Immunization Program.
For more information, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse or visit CDC’s vaccine website for parents.
To learn more, tune into Get Well Wednesday on November 7th at 5:30am CST/6:30am EST, when Tom Joyner will interview Dr. Yabo Beysolow of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.