Being a parent makes you susceptible to all sorts of advice. Since it’s one of the few jobs most of the adult population has undertaken, everyone is a bit of an expert. From day one, you’ve likely heard opinions on pretty much everything, and the input has probably been equal parts helpful and confusing. While most things parenting-related fall into the “there’s no one right way” category, vaccines are the one major exception.
I talk about vaccines like I talk about all things safety-related for kids. Most parents don’t resist car seats or bike helmets. The benefits of these visibly outweigh the alternatives. Vaccines are just as important. Think about diseases like Polio and Smallpox.
Ironically, the biggest challenge for vaccines is that they really work. If the diseases we’re protecting against were rampant among us, parents would likely not think twice about vaccinating. This lack of visible urgency is only exacerbated by misinformation. Every day I see parents led astray by well-meaning friends and relatives who unnecessarily complicate what should be a straightforward decision.
If you’re confused about whether to immunize your child, make an appointment with your nurse practitioner to learn more. Here are 10 facts I share with parents to help make their decision to vaccinate an easy one.
Vaccines save lives. Without current vaccines, 42,000 nine-year-olds right now would die early deaths. Vaccines will prevent 20 million cases of disease for this one birth year alone.
Vaccines prevent diseases you probably don’t even know exist. Following the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule will shield your child from 14 deadly diseases by the time they turn two.
Vaccines don’t just protect your own child. If enough of the population gets vaccinated, herd immunity will protect those who can’t be vaccinated, like newborns, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with suppressed immunity.
Not all kids in school are vaccinated. By kindergarten, 95 percent of kids are vaccinated, but outliers are not spread out evenly among the population. If you live near a pocket of unvaccinated children and yours are not protected, the risk of contracting disease jumps dramatically.
Not all vaccines are for contagious diseases. Tetanus is contracted from the soil, so only people who have the vaccine are protected.
Vaccines do not cause autism. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence proving the hype is not validated, so don’t put your children in danger.
You’re closer than you think to an outbreak. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases of all time, and is still very common in Europe, Asia and Africa. Nearly everyone not vaccinated will get the measles if they walk into a room even two hours after an infected person has left.
A lot of people unnecessarily die from vaccine-preventable illness every year. 70,000 people die from pneumococcus, 40,000 die from the flu and 5,000 die from Hepatitis B every year, right here in the U.S.
Vaccines also prevent chronic diseases and certain cancers. The HPV vaccine, for example, also drastically reduces the incidence of throat and cervical cancer.
Vaccine advancements are keeping kids healthier every year. The pneumococcal vaccine prevented 211,000 infections and 13,000 deaths between 2000 and 2008. The rotavirus vaccine prevented 60,000 hospitalizations last year.
Everyone wants to keep their kids safe, and that’s exactly what vaccines do. If you’re on the fence about whether to vaccinate your child, talk to a provider who can help put you at ease. Vaccines save lives, but only if they’re used. Even though vaccines are recommended for young kids, it’s never too late to vaccinate, and back to school is a great reminder to protect your child from diseases we have the science to prevent, and the research to know it’s worth it.