Vaccinations and Your Child: What You Need to Know

As a parent, you want to keep your child safe and healthy. One of the best ways to protect your child is by ensuring they receive all of their vaccinations. In addition to your child’s health, having them fully vaccinated also contributes to community immunity (“herd” immunity) and healthy schools.

What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly. Vaccinations work by imitating an infection and once the imitation infection has gone away, the body is left with a supply of memory T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future; this is known as immunity. Childhood vaccines produce immunity about 90 – 100% of the time.

Key reasons to vaccinate your child

Vaccination is safe and effective. As noted above, childhood vaccines are effective at producing immunity a majority of the time. Vaccines undergo a rigorous testing process and thorough review by doctors and scientists prior to be offered to the general public. The disease-prevention benefits of vaccines in children highly outweigh any possible side effects associated with vaccination.

Immunizations can save your child’s life. The vaccinations administered today prevent many of the diseases that once injured or caused loss of life in the past. Many of these diseases have been eliminated completely and that is due in large part to safe and effective vaccines.

Immunization protects others you care about. To keep those that haven’t yet been vaccinated safe, it is important that those that can be vaccinated get fully immunized. This protects your family and those in poor health and also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.

Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced the number of cases and even eliminated many debilitating diseases. The continuation of vaccinating will give parents and future generations the peace of mind that these diseases will not reappear and cause harm.

Vaccines may need more than one dose

Have you wondered why your child needs booster shots or multiple vaccinations? There are four main reasons that children need multiple doses to achieve immunity.

  • The first dose does not provide as much immunity as possible, so more than one dose is necessary to build a more complete immunity.
  • The initial series of four shots received as an infant helps build immunity, but eventually the immunity ‘wears off’. This is why booster doses are needed—to bring immunity levels back up.
  • For some vaccines, research has shown that more than one dose is needed to develop the best immune response.
  • Some disease-causing viruses change over time and annual vaccinations are developed to combat the specific virus strain, as in the case of the flu vaccine.

Healthy children, healthy schools, & healthy communities

Community immunity, or “herd” immunity, occurs when a critical mass of a population is immunized against a contagious disease. When this occurs, a majority of the community is protected from the disease and the spread of disease is dramatically reduced or non-existent. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained.

By fully immunizing your children, you are contributing to community immunity, in turn reducing the spread of contagious diseases. This leads to healthier children, healthier schools, and healthier communities.

Vaccinations schedules & maintaining immunization

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issues an annual vaccination schedule for children up through age 18. The schedules are available online and your health care practitioner will keep documentation and records. Should any questions arise regarding vaccination timing or proof of vaccination, contact the provider that administered your child’s vaccinations. It is also recommended that you maintain a file for your child’s vaccination and immunization record, as many schools require documented proof.

Keeping your child fully immunized is crucial for their health and safety, as it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it has occurred. Maintaining your child’s health is of the utmost importance to us at Northwest Primary Care. We offer comprehensive pediatric care, resources, and education.