It’s one of the hardest parts of being a new parent. You bundle up your baby every few months for a trip to the pediatrician’s office, knowing it will end in piercing cries when the next round of shots goes into that tender little thigh.
It’s enough to make a stressed-out, exhausted new parent skip the visit and stay home. You can catch up on the shots later, right?
Getting kids vaccinated on the schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives them the best chance of staying healthy from preschool to college and beyond. Vaccines protect against serious diseases—such as measles, polio and mumps—that can result in a hospital stay or even death.
“It’s critical to make sure your child is completely vaccinated against these vaccine-preventable diseases, and that means finishing the entire series of recommended shots,” says Elif E. Oker, MD, a medical director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. “That is the only way to be immunized from these very serious diseases.”
There has been a lot of chatter about whether vaccines cause autism or other problems in kids. But studies have shown they are safe. It’s also not good to change the shot schedule because kids who have none or only a few shots can still get sick. That was the case with an outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland last year and eventually sickened 147 people in six states, Mexico and Canada.
“The resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough have been linked to people who’ve chosen not to vaccinate their children or themselves,” Dr. Oker says. “Life-threatening diseases we thought were under control are coming back.”
And forget the idea that other people’s shots keep your unvaccinated child from getting sick. That only works when almost everyone else has had their shots. So the more people who skip them, even just ONE of them, the less likely everyone is safe.
OK, so you’re on board with the shots, but can’t you skip a few of those trips to get more doses of the same vaccine? Isn’t one enough?
Nope, not if you want the full protection.
Vaccines stop diseases by safely imitating an infection so the body builds up immunity to it. But many vaccines require more than one dose to build complete immunity. So one shot of those is simply not enough. For example, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—known as MMR—is given around the first birthday, again before starting school and a booster is recommended for adults.
One exception is the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, recommended for boys and girls to prevent cervical and other cancers. The CDC recommends the three-shot series begin around age 11 or 12 and be given at carefully timed intervals
The bottom line for new parents (and not-so-new ones) is that a vaccine schedule can interrupt your very busy life; But, following it closely can help you raise a healthy child from infancy to adulthood.
Be sure to talk to your pediatrician to make sure your child’s shots are up to date. You also can keep track of all your family’s vaccinations in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthy Family app, available in the App Store, Google Play or by texting HF to 33633.
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