In recent years, whether or not to vaccinate school-age children has become a controversy in the United States, including here in Alaska. A very small but vocal minority of parents have questioned the importance of vaccinations concerned that vaccinations may cause certain illnesses or diseases in infants and small children, even though no scientific evidence exists to support this belief.
In reality, vaccinations have been, and continue to be, a lifesaver for young children, reducing childhood mortality and controlling the incidence of outbreaks. Many once-commonplace diseases like mumps and polio have been nearly eliminated in the US by modern medicine’s development of vaccines and immunizations.
Still, outbreaks of disease can occur—and schools are among the top communities where illness spreads quickly.
By making sure your preschool and school-age children are vaccinated, you’re protecting their health in the short term and long term.
You’re also being a responsible community member by making sure your children are not carrying a dangerous or possibly deadly virus that could put other children, and even adults, at serious risk—especially those with weakened immune systems, like patients going through cancer treatment or people receiving organ transplants.
The most vulnerable in our society—babies—are also at risk when children around them are not vaccinated. Newborns and infants are highly susceptible to disease because they are still too young for vaccines. Illnesses that are merely unpleasant for healthy, immunized children and adults can be deadly for unvaccinated babies.
According to the Center for Disease Control, outbreaks of measles and whooping cough (pertussis)—diseases we’d previously nearly eliminated or controlled thanks to vaccines—have increased in recent years. You may have seen coverage of this on your nightly news.
Both of these potentially dangerous and deadly illnesses are preventable with vaccines available from your family physician or pediatrician. Why put your children (and other children) at unnecessary risk?
The CDC states that young children in their early years need vaccines against 14 different vaccine-preventable illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening in young children. Which vaccinations do you need to protect your kids?
For specific details about recommended ages and when to schedule shots, talk to your physician.
To find out Alaska’s requirements (and descriptions of the diseases and their symptoms and repercussions), you can talk to your family doctor or your school administrator, or visit the Alaska State Vaccine Requirements page on the National Vaccine Information Center website. This non-profit website links to state government resources, including the State of Alaska’s immunization fact sheet.
You can also review the Centers for Disease Control recommended vaccination schedule here.
It’s OK if you’ve missed a shot or two along the way—doctors can catch up preteens and teens, and in fact have a schedule for this. The important thing is to not skip vaccinations on purpose or assume your child is done after a certain age.
If your child had a shot several years ago, this does not necessarily mean he or she doesn’t need another one in the future. Children need every recommended dose of each vaccine in order to be protected. Do your best to follow your state’s recommended schedule for childhood vaccinations.
Believe it or not, vaccinations are available and helpful through most of your child’s life, even up through college and university. Some are even mandatory (although religious exemptions and medical exemptions are sometimes allowed).
States vary in their vaccination requirements. Many states require that your child be vaccinated against certain diseases before enrolling in school, even college.
Summer will be over sooner than you think. Now, before the back-to-school rush begins, is a good time to look over your child’s medical records and see if he or she is due for a vaccination.
A good time-saving opportunity, if your child is an athlete, is to combine a vaccination visit with a pre-season athletic physical. In many states, this physical is required for athletes, especially teens. Some schools even require an annual physical before school starts, whether your child is an athlete or not.
Your physician can help you with answers. If you live in the Soldotna/Kenai area and are in need for vaccinations call Family Medical Clinic today.