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Actually, that decision could lead to a lot of potential harm.
From infancy to preschool and beyond, keeping your child healthy means following the vaccination schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The schedule is designed to protect against serious diseases. Without vaccinations, polio, whooping cough and mumps can result in a hospital stay or even death.
It’s critical to make sure your child is completely vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases. That means finishing the entire series of recommended shots on time.
If you are worried about the safety of vaccines, don’t be. Studies show they are safe. Veering from the recommended vaccine schedule is not. Kids who aren’t vaccinated, or who only get a few shots can still get sick. It happened with an outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland in 2015. A total of 147 people in six states, Mexico and Canada became ill.
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. Life-threatening diseases that we thought were under control are coming back.
It is also dangerous to think vaccinated people will keep your unvaccinated child from getting sick. That only works when almost everyone else has had their shots. When people choose to skip their shots, even just ONE, it is less likely that everyone is safe.
Even people who are on board with vaccinations often think it isn’t a big deal to miss a dose. If you’re among them, you may think, “Isn’t one dose enough?”
The answer is no. Not if you want full protection.
Vaccines stop diseases by safely imitating an infection so the body builds up immunity to it. Many vaccines require more than one dose to build complete immunity . One shot 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 to prevent cervical and other cancers in boys and girls. The CDC advises that young people begin the three-shot series at age 11 or 12. The doses are given at carefully timed intervals.
The bottom line for new parents (and not-so-new ones) is simple. A vaccine schedule may seem inconvenient at times. Still, following it closely can help you raise a healthy child from infancy to adulthood.
Talk to your pediatrician to make sure your child’s shots are up to date.
Originally published 10/13/2016; Revised 2021
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