The debate over vaccination has always been a raging one. Parents of young children have their best interests at heart and naturally, have different kinds of opinions. In this article, we aim to clarify the doubts parents are more likely to encounter while they make the decision to vaccinate their children.
Let’s talk about a few questions that new parents may have in mind regarding vaccinations.
#1. Vaccinations can cause autism - False
This debate began with the publishing of a study in the late 1990’s linking the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine with autism. The study has since been discredited and most of the co-authors have withdrawn their support. The medical journal too has retracted the study. However, the news has been difficult to erase from the public’s mind, especially those who are already doubtful about vaccinating their children.
Also Read: Essential Vaccination Chart for Babies
#2. Vaccinations can have side-effects - False
While it is true that vaccinations can cause side effects like fever, swelling and pain at the site of injection, the cases of serious side effects like full-blown allergies are rare and few. Parents must also understand that the side effects of vaccinations are minor problems and temporary compared to diseases like measles, tetanus, hepatitis B, etc… for which they are providing protection against.
#3. Vaccines will pump my child’s fragile system with harmful toxins - False
While it is true that today’s children receive more vaccines than children in the 80’s or 90’s (14 today before the age of 2, compared to 8 then), as parents you should remember that they also provide protection against almost twice as many diseases as children were protected against then. Vaccines are primarily water and antigens with a trace of other chemicals, the amounts of which are smaller than what the children might be otherwise exposed to from other sources. The additional elements are added only to enhance the effectiveness of the vaccine.
#4. Vaccines don't really work. What about the flu outbreak every season?
The strain of viruses which cause influenza or flu is constantly mutating. Every year, scientists predict the strain most likely to cause that year’s influenza outbreak and develop the vaccine to provide immunity against that specific strain. Very rarely, like in 2017-2018 are the predictions inaccurate which leads to lower immunity against flu in that specific year. However, what is important to remember is that even then these vaccines reduced flu illness by 40-60%. More importantly, they prevent chronic flu. The need for hospitalization associated with the chronic symptoms has been also been significantly reduced because of vaccination against flu.
#5. Why does my child need more than one dose of some vaccines?
Every vaccine is different. For some vaccines, additional shots are needed to increase the cumulative effect so that they can provide complete protection against a host of diseases. For some others, the effect of the vaccine might reduce over time, therefore, additional booster shots might be needed for the vaccine to remain effective.
Also Read: 5 things you should know about painless vaccination
My children will anyway not be exposed to some of the diseases covered in the vaccination schedules.
Some parents are of the opinion that their children don’t need vaccines against hepatitis B (HepB) and HPV as these are primarily sexually transmitted diseases and their children will not be exposed to these anyway.
Children are likely to come into contact with bodily fluid through scrapes, falls, and accidents. Some infants could also catch HepB from their mothers. The HepB vaccine provides protection against these occurrences and primes the immune system for when they might encounter the worst complications of the disease.
#6. My child will be safe because of “herd immunity”
Vaccinated communities provide an effect called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”. When a large section of the population is immunised, they are collectively protected against the diseases they are vaccinated for. This herd immunity, in turn, protects the elderly, the too fragile and the too young who cannot be vaccinated against the diseases. However, parents who hope to take advantage of this herd immunity effect and not get their children vaccinated should remember that as more parents choose against vaccination, they are collectively bringing down the immunity of the entire community.
Also Read: Which vaccinations are compulsory for my child and why?
Unicef and WHO have repeatedly emphasized the importance of vaccinations in early childhood. According to the reports published by both these organizations, which make health recommendations for all nations of the world, one-third deaths of children below five can be prevented by vaccinations. They have gone on to call vaccination as one of the most cost-effective health investments. Therefore, make an informed choice after carefully weighing the pros and cons and addressing your concerns with your doctor. Remember, the choice of vaccination is an important one with lifelong health consequences for your children.
The American Academy of Paediatrics has repeatedly emphasised the importance and safety of vaccines. They have reiterated that if not for vaccines, there would be 4 million cases of measles outbreak in the US alone, as compared to the rare handful we have today. Make an informed choice after weighing all the pros and cons and clarifying whatever concerns you might have with your paediatrician. Remember, the choice of vaccination is an important one which can have lifelong consequences for your children.
Also Read: 10 ways to ease your baby's pain after vaccination
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