The Truth About Immunization

Doctor giving needle to young girl in exam roomImmunization is the process of vaccinating you or your child against disease or infection. But something as apparently innocuous as immunization is often the cause of a huge debate –  some parents strongly believe in vaccination and will make sure their children get all of their vaccines, but some parents are strongly opposed to some vaccinations and will choose to not vaccinate their children. This article attempts to dispel some of the myths surrounding immunization and will tell you exactly why childhood vaccinations are vitally important for your child’s health in the future.

Children are born without certain antibodies to protect them from certain diseases. Protection given to the child in the womb via the mother’s antibodies and after the child is born via the mother’s milk is only temporary, which is why vaccinations are usually given to the child from the age of two months onwards.

Some vaccines have been linked to the development of disease, such as the MMR jab. Much has been made in the media in the past of the link between the MMR jab and autism, as well as the link between the MMR and Crohn’s disease. This link has been disproved by a number of medical studies, but it still seems to cause many parents to abandon vaccinations. Other vaccinations, such as the chicken pox vaccination and the flu vaccination are being skipped entirely by some parents as they feel that they are not ‘necessary’. A rather large number of parents also delay their children’s vaccinations in an attempt to prevent side effects associated with the immunizations; however, there is no research at all to prove that delaying vaccinations prevents these very rare side effects.

The process of immunization is to stimulate the immune system of the child as if there were a real disease or infection. This then allows the immune system to develop anti-bodies and to remember the disease so that if the child comes into contact with it again, they are able to fight it off without it taking hold. There’s no denying that some vaccinations cause very minor side effects, such as redness at the site of injection, a raised red lump, drowsiness, mild fever and dizziness. In very rare cases, vaccinations can cause severe complications, but the consensus of most doctors is that the instances of severe side effects are so rare, that the benefits of the vaccinations far outweigh the risks.

Vaccinations will protect your child against a whole host of severe, debilitating and potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (a bacteria that can cause meningitis, blood poisoning and infection of the back of the throat), mumps, rubella, chicken pox, influenza, meningitis and cervical cancer. The reason that many parents skip vaccines is because they believe that most of the diseases listed above are not around anymore – and that’s true, but the reason that these diseases are not around anymore is because they are vaccinated against. If just one child contracts rubella, that could cause an epidemic in the local community – but if the child was vaccinated against rubella, they would never contract the disease in the first place.

The immunization schedule for your child usually begins at two months, with more injections at three months, four months, 12-13 months, at age 3-5 years before the child starts school, at 12-13 years for girls only and at 13-18 years when your child leaves school. This schedule of injections includes top-up injections but does not include vaccinations against tropical diseases such as malaria, so if you plan on taking a trip with your child to a tropical country, check which vaccinations they need before you travel.

Vaccinating your child can save their life and the benefits far outweigh the risk. Speak to your doctor for more information.