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You look at the calendar and sigh. You know what’s coming up. It’s time for your baby to get the next round of vaccinations—a ritual that’s sure to end in lots of tears and shrieking.
The thought crosses your mind that maybe it’s OK to skip this round. You can catch up later. What’s the harm?
A lot, actually.
“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.”
The schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is designed to give kids the best chance of protection against serious diseases such as whopping cough, polio and mumps. Some of these diseases can even be fatal.
If you are worried about vaccines causing autism or other problems in kids, please don’t be. Studies have shown they are safe. It’s also not good to change the shot schedule because 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 last year 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.”
Sometimes people will rely on other people’s kids being vaccinated to keep diseases away from their unvaccinated child. The problem is 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.
Even if you’re on board with vaccinations, it can still be hard to make it to all those doctor’s appointments when your kids are very young. Is it worth the effort?
Yes, 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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