Vaccinations are one of the greatest discoveries in medicine and have saved countless lives over centuries. As a pediatrician, vaccinations are one of the best things I have to offer your child to keep them healthy and protect their health long-term. Vaccines help your immune system build a defense against specific germs. While Dr. Edward Jenner was believed to be the “founder” of current day vaccination with his work on the smallpox vaccine in 1796, the concept of vaccination goes as far back as ancient Chinese civilization around 1000 CE, where a variation of vaccination was being performed against smallpox. As research on vaccination continued to advance in the early to mid-1900s, we started to build an arsenal against one previously devastating virus and bacteria after another, including:
- Polio (a virus that cripples/paralyzes – remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It can also lead to death)
- Measles (a very contagious and potentially deadly virus)
- Pertussis (a.k.a. whooping cough, which can be deadly to infants),
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (a cause of bacterial meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia),
- Streptococcus pneumoniae strains (involved with ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia, and bacterial meningitis),
- and many, many others.
As time has gone, vaccine efficacy has improved, effectively eradicating (or nearly eradicating) several types of illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria that used to either kill or harm thousands to millions of people each year. No doubt, vaccines are one of the most evidence-based and effective practices that I offer to kids everyday.
Here are my top 3 reasons:
- Vaccines help us fight the most contagious and devastating of viruses and bacteria. By vaccinating your child, you are equipping your child against these germs.
- The diseases we vaccinate against are STILL around. Fortunately you have probably never seen a polio, diphtheria or pertussis outbreak, there are plenty of places around the world where either poor healthcare or choices by individuals not to vaccinate allow for these viruses and bacteria to still survive. All it takes is a plane ride over by a person with measles (for example) to spread it to susceptible people (who haven’t been vaccinated!). If you want a recent example of this, read up on the 2015 breakout of measles through Disneyland and surrounding California communities.
- Two words: Herd Immunity. What is herd immunity? This term describes the ability to stop the spread of infection in a community if enough people are vaccinated. This is so important for two reasons. First, if there’s a baby out in our community who is too young to get their measles or pertussis vaccination, we can indirectly help prevent this baby from catching pertussis or measles by getting vaccines ourselves. You can think about us being bodyguards for that baby (and countless others like him or her who can’t get vaccinated). If too many people who are eligible to get vaccines stop getting vaccinated, then we are putting babies and other susceptible individuals at risk for catching these germs. Second, herd immunity helps us make sure that germs previously either eliminated or made rare by vaccinating people continue to stay eliminated or rare. Herd immunity is eliminated by individuals choosing not to vaccinate and creates a strong possibility for return of illnesses that were previously rare due to people getting vaccinated. For a real life example of what happens when herd immunity breaks down, check out this article detailing the sad outcomes of a pertussis outbreak in California.
There are plenty of other reasons to get vaccinations, but I’ll leave it at just these top three. Remember, vaccinations are well studied for not only their effectiveness, but their safety as well. There are absolutely no connections between vaccinations and autism – a fact that has been proven over and over again by studies over the last several decades . There are also no concerns about toxic quantities of dangerous chemicals used in vaccinations, and every component of vaccines has been studied for its safety. Additionally, the studies on effectiveness and safety NEVER stop! We are still studying even the oldest of vaccines out there to make sure no safety issues or effectiveness issues are newly arising.
If you ever have any questions or concerns with regards to vaccinations, PLEASE feel free to bring them up with your provider any time you are at Northside Pediatrics!
Great links for further information on why we vaccinate (and sources from data/facts above):