Thursday, October 9, 2008

Immunizations: A Key to Kids's Success

Below is information provided by Dr. Cynthia Devore.
This article was provided by our local PTSA

Why Do We Need To Immunize Our Families And Ourselves?

Immunization Protects You, Your Family, and Your Community.

Today, most of us have never seen firsthand the discomfort, disability and even death that vaccine preventable diseases can cause. The success of widespread immunization means that we are more likely to witness a rare reaction to a vaccine than a case of the disease that the vaccine prevents.

Vaccines are simple. One to five doses of a vaccine can provide long-term to life-long protection from some serious diseases. Vaccines act naturally to stimulate the body’s own immune system.

The body’s response to vaccines builds a defense against future exposure to diseases.

We need to immunize because vaccines prevent 12 potentially deadly diseases. In the days before immunization, millions of people died from diseases like diphtheria, polio, measles and whooping cough. Re-emergence of these diseases occurs when there are decreases in vaccine use.

Vaccine Safety: there has been a long and thorough process in place to ensure the safety of vaccines. Licensing of a vaccine can take up to 10 years. Once a vaccine is in use by the general public, its safety is continually monitored. Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects.

However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk. Consider measles. One out of 30 children with measles getspneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get the disease, one or two will die from it. Thanks to vaccines, we have few cases of measles in the U.S. today. However, the disease is extremelycontagious and each year dozens of cases are imported from abroad into the U.S., threateningthe health of people who have NOT been vaccinated.

Vaccines effectively and affordably prevent diseases like measles that used to disable or even kill many children each year.

Answers to Common Questions about Vaccine Safety....You may have questions about stories you have heard in the news or read on the Internet about the safety of vaccines, such as:

Are vaccines safe?

YES, Vaccines are safe, but like any medicine, they can occasionally cause reactions. These are usually mild, like a sore arm, redness at the site, or a slight fever. Serious reactions are rare.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about potential risks before receiving a shot.

Is it safe to give a child many shots at once, or does this overload the immune system?

YES, it is safe. Studies show that today’s children are actually exposed to fewer antigens (substances that produce an immune response) in vaccines than ever before. Based on the immune system’s capacity to respond, scientists estimate that a child could receive 10,000 vaccine antigens in one day and still not “use up” their immune response. The 11 recommended childhood vaccines contain less than 130 vaccine antigens.

Are preservatives found in vaccines safe?

YES. Today, all of the currently recommended vaccines for children ages six or younger are now available thimerosal-free. Thimerosal is a mercury-containing preservative that has been used in some vaccines since the 1930s as a safeguard against contamination. A review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found no evidence of harm caused by the small amounts of thimerosal in vaccines. Nevertheless, in July 1999 the Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (AAP) and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal levels in vaccines should be reduced or eliminated to reassure the public that vaccines are safe.

Can I get a disease from a vaccine?

NO. This is a myth that comes from speculation that because a disease-causing germ is sometimes used in the creation of a vaccine, it is possible for the vaccine to cause the disease. Vaccines, however, are made from killed or weakened bacteria or viruses, non-harmful products of these germs or parts of these germs. In rare cases, some vaccines may cause mild, short-term, disease-like symptoms.

Isn’t chickenpox simply a harmless childhood rite of passage?
I got chicken pox when I was a child and I turned out just fine. Why do I need to vaccinate my child with the chickenpox (Varicella) vaccine now?

NO, chickenpox is not harmless. Chickenpox (also known as Varicella) causes 12,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths each year in the U.S. While chickenpox is usually mild, it can be serious in some infants, children, adolescents and adults. Some people who get chickenpox also suffer from complications such as encephalitis (brain infection), secondary bacterial infections like “flesh-eating” strep or MRSA, loss of fluids (dehydration), pneumonia, and even death. If an immunized person gets chickenpox, the illness will be much milder than in a non-immunized person. Varicella vaccine protects children now and as adults when they are more likely to die from chickenpox and its complications.

What are the benefits and risks of immunization?

Benefits: There are many benefits to immunizing children.

• Protects them from dangerous and deadly diseases
• Protects others, who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
• Decreases the severity of a case if the vaccinated child does get the disease.
• Decreases the spread of contagious diseases through “herd immunity.”

Risks: Some children may experience a mild fever, irritability, pain, swelling and redness at the injection site. Very rarely a child may experience allergic reactions if they are allergic to a component of the vaccine, seizures, non-responsiveness, or crying that lasts more than 3 hours.

These risks need to be compared to the very real risks of not immunizing our children: prolonged illnesses that can produce severe disability and even death.

Where can I find a list of ingredients found in vaccines?It is always important to use caution in using the internet for credible resources. You can find a list of ingredients on the Centers for Disease Control website at:

What are other good resources that will help me understand vaccines better?

There are many excellent resources and many questionable resources.

The information in this article is from reputable resources:
• American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Red Book, 2006.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
• National Immunization Program Web site,
• Immunization Action Coalition Web site,
• Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Web site
• National Network for Immunization Information Web site,
• NPI Reference Guide on Vaccines and Vaccine Safety, 2nd edition, 2002.
• Vaccinating Your Child: Questions and Answers for the Concerned Parent, Sharon Humiston, MD, MPH and Cynthia Good,
• Got a question about immunizations? Email the Child Immunization Support Program of the American Academy of Pediatrics at