There are a lot of myths surrounding vaccines. You may have heard that vaccines aren’t necessary, that they’ll overwhelm a small child’s system, that they don’t keep illnesses away or even that they cause autism. You might even believe that vaccines aren’t safe or that they contain toxic chemicals that could harm your child.
Let’s be clear up front: Vaccines are important, safe and effective. This isn’t just a line that’s being repeated over and over by so-called “Big Pharma.” It’s the mantra of real health professionals and major organizations, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and more.
Fully vaccinating yourself and your children is one of the best things that you can do to promote the wellbeing of your family and the community around you. Need a few solid reasons to make an appointment? Here are seven good reasons to vaccinate.
- To Keep Your Kids Healthy
Parents typically want the best for their children, especially when it comes to good health and a long life. Vaccinations play an integral role in protecting your kids’ health. Sticking to the recommended vaccine schedule ensures that your children’s immune systems will have the support they need to fight off many of the infectious diseases of childhood, including chickenpox, flu and measles.
Kids who have received vaccination for a particular sickness are less likely to catch that disease. Even if they do contract the illness, they’ll probably experience a less severe version of it. The disease may run its course in fewer days and symptoms may not be as intense. Vaccinated children may also be less likely to encounter serious side effects.
- To Keep Yourself Healthy
Although vaccines are often thought of as a childhood rite of passage, adults should keep their immunizations up to date as well. Unvaccinated children who contract vaccine-preventable diseases may expose parents, grandparents and other adults to illnesses. Adults whose vaccination boosters are not up to date may be at a greater risk of catching whooping cough and other diseases from children.
Plus, some vaccinations are specifically recommended for adults. These include:
- An annual flu shot
- Meningitis vaccines for college students
- HPV vaccines for young adults in their 20s
- Shingles vaccines for adults over the age of 50
- Pneumococcal vaccines for adults over the age of 65
If you’re not sure if you’re up to date on your vaccines, check with your doctor. He may be able to test for antibodies, or he might order a round of boosters just to be safe. And if you work with or around children, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems – the people most at risk for getting sick – you should definitely take care to get immunized.
- To Minimize the Risk (and Impact) of Illness
Being sick is hard on everyone, both kids and parents. If you can keep your kids from catching vaccine-preventable diseases, everyone in your family wins.
The cost of sickness can really add up. When you or your kids get sick, you may have to pay for trips to the doctor and medications. Being too exhausted to cook may mean that you order expensive takeout night after night. To make matters worse, illness can cause you to miss several days of work, which can lead to lost wages.
But money isn’t the only cost of illness. Being sick robs you of time as well as dollars. To prevent spreading germs to others, it’s best to stay home when you or your children are sick, which means that you may miss out on activities that you really want to do. You may also fall behind on a whole host of things – housework, social activities, everyday responsibilities and more – and spend weeks playing catch-up when you’re well again.
The kinds of illnesses that vaccines prevent, like measles, can last a while and have more far-reaching effects than your typical cold. Instead of letting preventable illnesses wreak havoc on your budget and your calendar, take the time to ensure that your family’s vaccinations are up to date.
- To Support and Advance Modern Medicine
You have access to something that parents in the 1700s could only dream of: a world without smallpox. Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine in 1796. Two centuries later, this disease has been eliminated worldwide.
There’s no question about it: Vaccines are a remarkable achievement of modern medicine. Today, in addition to the elimination of smallpox, vaccines have reduced the spread of polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, chicken pox and other diseases. In 2000, measles was considered all but eliminated in the U.S., an unfortunately short-lived achievement thanks to misinformation about vaccines and a rising distrust in pharmaceutical companies.
Scientists subject vaccines to rigorous testing before making them available to the public, and safety checks continue long after their release. For the vast majority of recipients, side effects are usually mild and short-lived, and the protection offered by a vaccine far outweighs the initial discomfort of the shot.
By vaccinating yourself and your children, you help medical researchers push for even better and more innovative solutions to the problems facing us today. Science isn’t perfect, and neither are vaccines. It’s true that a small number of people are allergic to the ingredients or react poorly to getting immunized. But medical research constantly evolves, and taking advantage of life-saving medical interventions is one way to support the evolution of scientific research.
- To Send Your Kids to School
If you don’t plan to homeschool your kids, you might want to think twice about ignoring the immunization schedule. In every state, your kids must receive certain vaccinations in order to go to school. Children may need vaccinations in order to attend daycare as well.
Some states allow exemptions on various grounds, such as religious or philosophical objections. However, receiving approval for an exemption may require an application process or other paperwork. Choosing to vaccinate is a simpler way to ensure your child’s admission to daycare or school, whether public or private.
- To Protect Other People
Other than your kids and yourself, protecting your community as a whole is a big reason for making sure your vaccines are up to date. Not everyone can receive vaccines. Newborn babies, for instance, are too young to get all their shots right away and need to wait several months to get certain immunizations. People with certain allergies, those with compromised immune systems and other health issues may also be unable to protect themselves via vaccine.
These people depend on you to get your shots instead. It’s called “herd immunity” and it only works if a certain percentage of people have been vaccinated against the illness (rates differ by disease).
Otherwise, you could catch serious illnesses and spread them throughout the community. Vulnerable people who can’t receive vaccinations may, through no fault of their own, catch these illnesses as well. By choosing to immunize your family, you are doing your part to protect others.
- To Promote Public Health
Vaccines have eliminated some diseases and reduced the frequency of others. Since 1979, the world has been free of the threat of smallpox. Polio has been eradicated in the majority of countries in the world, and vaccines have reduced deaths from diphtheria by 86 percent.
Disease eradication relies on the participation of the majority of people. For example, to prevent outbreaks of measles, a community needs vaccination rates of at least 92 percent. When the number of vaccinated people falls below that benchmark, outbreaks may spread, affecting not only those who have made the willful choice not to vaccinate but also the young, the allergic and the immunocompromised.
Vaccination is not only for current health. Keeping shot records up to date – both yours and your children’s – means that you’re doing your part to contribute to the eradication of diseases for future generations.