Vaccinations: Why they are Important for your Child
8 mins read
Health & Safety for New Born, Baby, Toddlers, Pre-schoolers, Pre-teen
Vaccinations are vital to ensure that your children are protected from illnesses that may or may not be life-threatening. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be aware of the various benefits of immunisations and to ensure you get your children proper vaccine shots in a timely manner.
Vaccinations play an active role in keeping us away from many kinds of diseases. Irrespective of the age group, they play an integral role in protecting people at large from illnesses that are environmentally borne. In fact, vaccines have been able to eradicate some grave diseases like measles, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, etc. This is why keeping your children vaccinated at regular intervals should be on top of every parent's priority list, especially for school going kids, who are at a higher risk of getting infected by contagious diseases.
Role of Vaccinations
It is the child’s immune system which helps him stay protected against pathogens which can cause infection. It is usually a system that is efficient enough to keep the body at the peak of good health. The role of the immune system is to get the infection-causing microorganisms (pathogens) out, or reduce them enough to finally get rid of them. Some pathogens can, however, overwhelm the immune system, and when this happens, we fall sick. The pathogens which cannot be recognized by the body are the ones which cause problems. When children get their vaccine shots, it helps the immune system recognize which organisms are harmful and how to eliminate them. This way the body stays prepared to fight them when they attack.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccinations help the body in recognizing new diseases. It stimulates your child's body into making antibodies which fight the source of the infection. In addition, it helps immune cells stay prepared and keeps them alert, which in turn, allows for a rapid response to the infection, should it occur. If your school going child has a healthy immune system, it will defend his body against invading pathogens. The immune system is composed of several types of cells, which either defend against or eliminate harmful pathogens. For this to happen, they have to first recognize that the invader which has seeped through, is dangerous.
Vaccines are nothing but an attenuated form of bacterium, which triggers the release of corresponding combating antibodies in the body. It helps the body get exposed to a safer version of the disease-producing pathogens in the form of:
A protein or sugar from the wall of the pathogen’s cell
Particles which mimic a virus, but are non-infectious
When a child’s body responds to the vaccine, it creates an adaptive immune response. This in-turn equips his body to fight an actual infection. Vaccines generally contain two parts, the first one is called an antigen and second one is an adjuvant. The antigen is the disease-producing micro-organism in its attenuated form, which the body must be able to recognize, while the adjuvant starts sending danger signs to the body indicating that the antigen is an infection. This helps the immune system kick into action and thereby, strengthen.
Opposition to Vaccination
Off late, opponents of vaccination have challenged their safety and effectiveness. Even though there are some research findings making rounds stating that vaccines can cause autism, there isn’t any proper valid proof yet that can claim the surety of this proposition. On the contrary, there is proof that vaccines have saved people from dying; vaccines have been established as safe ways to prevent people from dangerous diseases. Some people are simply unaware of the fact that their children need to be vaccinated and others, oppose vaccination without understanding the fact that vaccinations can potentially save your children. Lack of knowledge around vaccinations is rampant - for instance, children need to take vaccination for flu, every winter. But there are a large amount of people who don’t even know that it’s important for their child. To stay in the know, ensure you talk to your doctor about the vaccines your child needs.
Common Vaccinations for School Kids (9-12 Years)
Dtap to protect against Diphtheria, Tetanus and whooping cough ( pertussis)
HPV to protect against human papillomavirus
Meningococcal, for protection against meningococcal disease
Influenza shot every year
Varicella, for protection against chickenpox
Importance of Vaccination
The importance of vaccination is often understated but the impact of supporting and opting for vaccinations has long-lasting effects on public healthcare.
Vaccines safeguard your child’s life
With advancements in medical science, your child is protected from more diseases than ever. Consequently, safe and effective vaccines have resulted in reduction of infant morality rates and as vaccines provide long-term protection, there is a consequent increase in life expectancy around the world as well. In fact, as per a study conducted across 188 countries by a team of 700 researchers, global life expectancy for both sexes increased from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013 due to a reduction in the death toll from major diseases like measles.
Vaccines protect your family & community
Vaccines have to be given based on a schedule due to certain age and developmental factors. At other times, certain babies can’t be given vaccines due to weakened immune systems, severe allergies etc. Getting your child vaccinated will not only keep your child safe but also protect your community by preventing the spread of vaccine-preventable disease. This is also known as herd immunity, which is a community form of indirect protection from certain diseases if a large percentage of the community is immunised against it. However, don’t rely on it if your child is perfectly healthy and ready for vaccinations.
Based on the data gathered by UNICEF, an approximate 9 million lives a year are saved worldwide due to immunisation. Additionally, 16 million deaths caused by vaccine-preventable diseases could be prevented every year with effective immunisation worldwide. Vaccines not only safeguard your present but also protect your future. Getting your child vaccinated today can have a ripple effect in protecting future generations by aiding the complete elimination and eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines save you your health & money
Certain vaccine-preventable diseases are treatable, while others can be fatal. Regardless, treating these diseases is a costly affair and can result in lifelong disabilities or treatments as well. However, getting vaccinated gets cheaper by the day as UNICEF, the world’s largest buyer of vaccines for children, works to drive down prices of vaccines and make vaccination accessible for people from all classes and backgrounds. This has resulted in billions being saved in public healthcare costs. As per a recent study conducted at University of North Carolina, vaccination efforts since 2001 in the world's poorest countries will have saved an estimated $350 billion in health-care costs by 2020. The broader economic and social value of these efforts is estimated to save a whopping $820 billion!
Vaccination eliminates and eradicates deadly diseases
Vaccination aids the elimination of diseases transferable by certain carriers like mice and mosquitoes (yellow fever) and eradication of diseases without a carrier (smallpox). Smallpox claimed an estimate of 300-500 million lives in the 20th century, but due to extensive vaccination drives, was eradicated worldwide by 1980. Similarly, vaccinations aid the effort of elimination & eradication of various vaccine preventable diseases like polio, measles, etc. and consequently save millions of lives.
Travel, especially international travel, requires extensive preparation. But probably the most important (yet overlooked quite often) part is getting vaccinated. There are certain diseases that may not be as prevalent in your country due to the herd immunity phenomenon, but may be prevalent in the country you’re travelling to. Getting travel-related vaccines four to six weeks prior to travelling and being up-to-date on routine vaccines is essential to protect yourself and your children from these diseases as they can be severe or even fatal in some cases. If you’re travelling with a child who is yet to receive vaccines like MMR, talk to your doctor about the earliest at which the vaccine can be administered if you’re planning to travel abroad. While travel vaccines are recommended based on your destination, there are certain vaccines that are common to most countries.
Common travel vaccinations that are recommended and required:
The combination vaccine for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR vaccine) was linked to cause the developmental disorder Autism by Andrew Wakefield. This resulted in a drop in the number of children vaccinated, and put many more at risk to measles, mumps and rubella. However, the paper was discredited as it showed evidence of falsification of data. The man behind the study - Andrew Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. Watch: Vaccines don't cause autism, the save lives
Key Takeaway: There is no concrete evidence between vaccines and autism. However, data supports that vaccinations save millions of lives every year.
So, gain proper knowledge on vaccines, do not believe in myths and if need be consult with your doctor. Finally, ensure that your growing child has taken all the necessary shots.