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Nobody likes getting a shot at the doctor, least of all your kids. While the brief prick of a needle is unpleasant, its benefits are essential to your child’s well-being. In fact, I feel more strongly about vaccinations than anything else as a pediatrician. The single most important thing that I can do as a physician is provide your child with the right vaccinations on the right schedule (along with Band Aids with all of their favorite characters on them!)
Why do I feel so strongly about vaccines? Because the fact of the matter is that they have been around for a long time and there is zero doubt in the scientific community that they prevent illness and save countless lives.
Thirty years ago, at the start of my medical career, I would see kids die on a regular basis of illnesses caused by bacteria such as pneumococcal, Haemophilus influenzae B, and meningococcus; these can now be completely prevented with vaccinations. Our medical practice, North Atlanta Pediatrics Associates, has a 100% vaccination rate, so before a patient joins our practice, we inform them that they must be vaccinated on schedule and in full.
A major issue is that a number of parents don’t vaccinate their children because they read bogus information or are convinced by hack pundits of their “dangers”. At this point, it should be noted that there is no proven link between vaccines and autism, a common parental concern. A growing number of parents even sign exemption forms at schools with which they can waive their child from needing to be vaccinated for a number of flimsy reasons, including medical, religious, and even philosophical. I do not mean to suggest that these exemptions are never valid, but I do believe that a large number of them are not.
The primary goal of vaccinations is to get as many kids immunized as possible, allowing herd immunity. Crash course: herd immunity is when a large percentage of a population becomes immune to an infection and the spread of the disease slows down or stops completely because there’s a smaller chance that someone who is not immune will be infected. Thus, if you have enough pockets of society where people do not vaccinate and are not immune, then an outbreak of illness can and often will occur.
A major consequence of abstaining from common vaccinations is that it negatively affects kids who are either too young to receive them or kids who have valid medical reasons not to. One valid exemption is for kids who are on chemotherapy; their immune system is too weak to handle most vaccinations so it is not recommended. So, when parents choose not to vaccinate their kids, they are simply putting other kids who are unable to be vaccinated at a needlessly higher risk.
So what are best practices when it comes to vaccinating your child? I always recommend that you discuss your vaccination schedules with your pediatrician and make sure that you stay on top of it because there is simply no reason not to. If you hear anything concerning about the matter, you should talk to your pediatrician or check the CDC website, which provides excellent information about vaccines, and get an informed take. Informed takes are directly from educated professionals, not your college roommate’s Facebook posts!
Remember: getting vaccinated is not only important for your child. It’s important for all children.