When Are Immunizations Necessary and Why Are They Important?

by Mollee Bauer

ImmunizationsThere are few parenting issues that approach the emotional turmoil surrounding vaccinations. Do the shots safely protect our children? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Are vaccines efficient? Can vaccinations affect our children's future health?

Arguments can be made for and against vaccinations. You're your child's best advocate when it comes to health and wellness. We've outlined several options parents choose to protect their children against contagious diseases. We believe the final informed decision, is yours.

Empower Yourself with Knowledge

Major medical groups consider immunizations an essential part of a baby's well-checkup routine. The American Academy of Pediatrics says vaccination is a "shared responsibility necessary for public safety, health and security." Vaccinations are credited with eradicating smallpox and other diseases like polio, which has become rare world-wide.

Immunizations are a medical procedure that could have potential risks. Ask your healthcare provider for objective, educational materials on any symptoms or reactions your child could experience. Vaccinations could cause soreness or rash at the shot site. Other potential risks include fever, seizures or an altered mental state.

Nations differ in their immunization requirements for babies less than one-years-old. In 2009, five of the 34 nations with the best infant mortality rates required 12 vaccine doses, the least amount. The United States required 26 vaccine doses, the most of any nation at that time.

What Are Your Immunization Options?

Recommended Schedules

The 2012 schedule recommends that young children receive vaccines to protect them against 14 different diseases.

You can choose to follow one of the recommended childhood immunization schedules, available from either the AAP or the Centers for Disease Control.

Delayed Schedules

You may choose to only give your child the vaccines you feel are most necessary and avoid those with dangerous side effects or those banned in other countries. Young children receive twice as many vaccines as they did 25 years ago.

There are shots containing up to five vaccines. It's caused some parents to try and postpone some of the shots. They worry that multiple vaccinations at once could overwhelm their child's system.

Other concerns focus on vaccine additives such as aluminum and formaldehyde. A delayed schedule could give a child's body a chance to process the additives and get rid of them between shots.

When Are Immunizations Necessary?

Admission to school or daycare: Each state has individual laws and exemptions. Before the first day of school, see what the laws are for your area. If choosing not to vaccinate, find out what procedures or paperwork will need to be filled out.

Traveling to third world countries: In most developed countries the risk of exposure to serious diseases is generally the same as the U.S. If you're traveling to parts of Africa and Asia and many parts of South and Central America, your doctor may recommend shots for you and your child.

Hands down, this is a tough choice faced by parents. Sometimes, the decision is definite and visceral. Did you choose to vaccinate? Shout it out!

Medical references:
- Miller, N, et al. (2011) Infant mortality rates regressed against number of vaccine doses routinely given: Is there a biochemical or synergistic toxicity? Human and Experimental Toxicology.
- (May 31, 2012) CDC Immunization Schedule. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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