As the school year approaches, so does vaccination season
Doctors say children should get all recommended vaccinations before the first day of school
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
As the school year approaches and parents think about whether to vaccinate their children, the science and medical communities have one resounding message: choose to vaccinate.
“Immunizations are not dangerous, but it is always important to discuss any medical conditions you may have with your physician,” said Dr. Shannon Garton, Family Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Edwards Medical Offices.
Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating infection, causing the immune system to develop the same response to a real infection so the body can fight the disease in the future, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Choosing to not vaccinate has much larger health implications on the national and global population.
While many vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in the United States, they can be brought into the country and put unvaccinated children at risk, according to the CDC.
“(Vaccinating) also helps to prevent the spread of these diseases throughout the community and our nation as a whole. This is important because there are vulnerable people in our population such as young children, elderly, pregnant women and people with major medical conditions,” Garton said. “Not only do you offer your own child protection from these illnesses, but you are also contributing to our health as a society by vaccinating your child.”
Parents who worry about the risks
Garton said some of the common reasons parents don’t want to vaccinate their children is that the diseases are rare in this country, but she said that argument “simply testifies to the fact that vaccines are effective.”
“The reality is that we live in a global society and that these illnesses can easily spread from anywhere in the world to our local community,” she said. “As increasing numbers of people choose not to vaccinate, we see increasing numbers of what could be an uncommon illness.”
Vaccines can cause minor side effects such as redness and swelling where the shot was given, but often go away in a few days, according to the CDC.
The percentage of people who will suffer a complication from a vaccination is far fewer than the percentage of people who would suffer a complication if they contracted the illness itself,” Garton said.
Before a vaccine is approved by the FDA, “results of studies on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine are evaluated by highly trained FDA scientists and doctors,” according to the CDC’s website. “FDA also inspects the sites where vaccines are made to make sure they follow strict manufacturing guidelines.”
As for concerns that vaccines cause autism, Garton said the original study that made this association has been redacted and it has been well researched in the years that followed.
“Many separate researchers in many different countries have come to the conclusion that there is no association between autism and vaccinating children,” she said.
Sticking to a plan
Vaccination scheduling is important because it can be a hassle to have to play catch-up, Garton said. As children get older, there may be a wider window of when a vaccination is due, but Garton recommends getting them done in the fall when flu shots are also available.
“Influenza is a miserable illness and can lead to many sick days away from work or school,” she said. “Although the vaccination does not prevent all cases of influenza, it helps to reduce risk of getting the illness and the spread of the illness in the community.”
In addition to vaccinating, Garton said children should try to stay healthy during the school year by washing their hands frequently and not sharing drinks or food. If a child shows symptoms of illness, parents should keep them home from school to protect other children.
“We are all in this together, so give the gift of health and do not send your sick child to school,” she said.