For new parents, there are many important decisions you have to make regarding the development of your child. You have to decipher between many products, advertisements, and opinions about various topics such as; formulas, diapers, cribs, toys, medicines, and perhaps most confusingly, vaccines for you child. By the age of 6, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) currently suggests that each child should have a total of 9 vaccines. Many vaccines have multiple doses, which adds up to 29 doses for each child. You have an important decision to make in order to decide if all of these vaccines are the best choice for your child. Vaccines for children can be a controversial topic for some people. You should discuss vaccines with your pediatrician to help you make your decisions.
Vaccine Pros and Cons
As with any medications for people of any age, there are always risks associated with them. These risks, or side effects, can range from anything like soreness at the site of injection, increase in body temperature, allergic reaction, or even death. However, there are many, many studies that prove that the risks are extremely low, especially when compared with the high number of lives that have been saved from these childhood vaccines. If we could all imagine a world without the creation of vaccinations, then life today would be nothing like it is in reality. Vaccinations that prevent a horrific disease or the spread of one, are one of the biggest advancements in all mankind.
There is no comparison between how vaccines help society versus how they may hinder some individuals. The success of vaccinations lies within the power to not only help one child, but to also benefit all communities. For this reason, the majority of us choose to vaccinate our children, even with the knowledge of minute risks. According to the CDC, throughout the United States, about 95 percent of children have basic vaccinations by the time they enter kindergarten. For the majority of American parents, their decision to vaccinate outweighed any arguments to not vaccinate, due to these risks.
For example, a couple of childhood vaccines, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) carries a risk of about 1 in 1,000,000 of a child experiencing a severe allergic reaction, according to the CDC. This is an extremely low risk for diseases that can be terrible for a child. Measles, mumps, and rubella are all very contagious diseases, that are caused by a virus, and a person who contracts one of these diseases can have long-term complications from the illness. Mumps, for example, can have an effect on a person’s brain, pancreas, or reproductive organs. The diseases that a person is protected against with the DTaP vaccine can all be deadly diseases. Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis are all caused by a bacterium, and can have lasting effects on a patient who survives contracting the disease. The vaccines used to prevent these illnesses from occurring also have slight risks, but the risks are minimal when compared to a person actually having the disease, or worse, an entire outbreak of these diseases, should the vast majority decide not to use the vaccines. It is important to “do your homework” and learn as much as you can about each vaccine. You should investigate, for yourself, the risks versus the benefits, as you will find the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. You should also familiarize yourself with the side effects so you are not taken off-guard if your child experiences some of them.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child
There are many reasons why you should vaccinate your child, but first and foremost, is to protect them from diseases that can be life-altering or life-threatening. Science has provided our population with this gift of preventing diseases that were once rampant among populations and can now be prevented quite simply. Of course, there will always be a few risks, as with any medicine, but the benefits are beyond comparison. According to the CDC, more than 730,000 children have been saved over a 10-year time period due to receiving routine vaccinations. That is a huge number!
Another reason to vaccinate your child is to protect the general population, also. If these diseases never have a chance to begin, then there will be no chance of them spreading either. We all should feel a moral obligation to do what we can to better our communities. If the majority of the healthy population is fully immunized, then those people are able to help prevent the spread of diseases to other folks that cannot receive vaccinations, due to issues such as a weakened immune system or severe allergic reactions to components within the vaccines themselves. If you make the choice to vaccinate your own child or children, then you are really helping people you care for and others in your community.
Acquiring vaccines for your child can also help you save money, in the long-run. Most insurances cover the cost of vaccinations; however, if your child isn’t vaccinated and picks up a disease that requires a prolonged recovery time, then you will have childcare expenses, perhaps missed time from work, and multiple medical bills. For families that can’t afford the vaccinations, there is a federally-funded program called The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program that will cover the cost of the vaccinations.
Why You Should Not Vaccinate Your Child
There are a few reasons why a child should not receive a vaccine, or should postpone getting the vaccine until a later date. If your child has a known severe allergic reaction to any of the components used in the vaccine, then they should not receive the vaccine. You should complete your own thorough research about particular vaccines if you have any concerns. You will find plenty of information online about the components used in the vaccines, or you should discuss them with your child’s doctor.
Also, if your child has a weakened immune system due to a childhood cancer, HIV/AIDS, or similar illness, then the vaccines’ schedule should be discussed with your child’s doctor. Some children may have vaccines postponed if they have illnesses such as a bad respiratory illness, diarrhea, or vomiting. Vaccines are typically given to children who are feeling relatively healthy on that particular day.
Vaccinations Required for School
You may wonder why school systems have requirements for school-aged children. The basic need for vaccination requirements is for public safety and health. Whether your child is first grouped with children in a preschool setting, or in a kindergarten setting, there is a need to protect the general public as a whole group. The safest and most comprehensive way to provide that protection, is to have the mass of individuals immunized.
Every state in the U.S. has some vaccination requirements for children before they begin public kindergarten. However, not every state has exactly the same requirements. For all the vaccinations listed currently, the only vaccines that are required by ALL 50 states and Washington, DC are; diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, and rubella. The vaccine that protects against the mumps virus is required by all of the above, too, except for the state of Iowa. In addition, the varicella vaccine, which guards children from the chicken pox disease, is required by all, except for the states of Montana and Pennsylvania. The Hepatitis B vaccine is also a general requirement, except for the states of Alabama, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Out of all of the 50 United States, Montana has the least amount of required childhood vaccines, with a total of 3 requirements. Connecticut has the most required vaccines on their schedule, with a total of 9.
If you have questions or concerns, you should always check with your local school board or your pediatrician’s office for current guidelines.
School Vaccination Requirements
Along with the requirements that are in place for children entering kindergarten, there are also some booster vaccines that are scheduled throughout the grade school years. For example, before the middle school years begin, children are usually required to receive a booster of the DTaP vaccine. The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended in many states before the middle school years and, also, before the college years. This is a vaccine that helps prevent bacterial meningitis. This is a life-threatening illness that causes inflammation in the membranes around the spinal cord and the brain.
There is also a vaccine that is offered to children ages 11-12, but can be given to children as young as 9 and as old as mid-20’s. This is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine is used to prevent the most common form of sexually transmitted infections in the United States, and can prevent genital warts and various forms of cancer. This is a vaccine that is recommended to both males and females, although some people still have a difficult time choosing to vaccinate their sons with this medicine. Originally marketed as a vaccine that helps prevent ovarian cancer, it is now known to help prevent different types of cancers in both sexes. Medical professionals are currently trying to educate the public about this vaccine, in the form of television commercials, magazine advertisements, and through their doctor’s educating them about the benefits of the HPV vaccine.
Another vaccine that is recommended, on an annual basis, is the Influenza Vaccine. Across the United States, the flu makes thousands of people very sick every year. The vaccine may prevent the flu entirely, or at least lesson the severity of the flu for most.
Vaccination Waiver Form for School
Although all states have requirements for at least some vaccines, there will always be a few parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated. Pediatricians are required to document refusal of vaccines, so that there is proof they have discussed the benefits and risks of the vaccines with the parents (or guardians) of the child. Refusal to Vaccinate forms are available through the pediatrician’s office or online under websites like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Children Vaccination Side Effects
There is always the possibility of some side effects when a child is given a vaccination. Some parents may decide to separate due dates on vaccinations, if a child is due to have multiple vaccines on the same day. By separating the vaccines, there may be a lower risk of side effects. The most common side effects from vaccinations include; soreness or hardness around the injection site, elevated fever, headache, or noticeable tiredness. Less common side effects generally include symptoms such as; aches and pains in joints, muscle weakness, hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and chills. Examples of the most severe, yet very rare, side effects can include symptoms such as; deafness, seizures, coma, or even death. Most common side effects will go away on their own within a day or two, but if your child is experiencing symptoms that you are concerned about, then you should contact your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your pediatrician will also have a list of specific side effects for each individual vaccine.
Is It illegal to Not Vaccinate Your Child?
The short answer to the question, “Is it illegal if I choose to not vaccinate my child?”, is no. Although every state has some type of vaccination requirements before a child enters the public-school system, most states provide some sort of exemption form that a parent will sign if they have decided not to have their child vaccinated. Usually an exemption form will state something to the effect that a child will be able to attend school, so long as an outbreak of a particular disease doesn’t occur. If an outbreak occurs, the child may be excluded from the school building and the school grounds.
This point of view of not vaccinating your child and completing an exemption form, is not usually seen as a pro-social movement in the eyes of school leaders. Although it is a parent’s choice, if a child does not follow the vaccine norms, then the school does not have a 100 percent protection rate. This position can make processes more difficult for the school community.
Vaccination Schedule for Children
According to the current recommendation from the CDC, the following is a list of childhood vaccinations:
Hepatitis B (HepB) is given in 3 doses. Once at birth, 1-2 months old, and lastly at 6 months old.
Rotavirus (RV) is given in either 2 or 3 doses. In a 2-dose schedule, it is given at 2 months old and 4 months old. If 3 doses are required, it is given at 6 months old. The type of vaccine used is the deciding factor in the number of doses. You should discuss with your pediatrician for further information.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) is given in 5 doses. The normal schedule is 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 15-18 months old, and 4-6 years old.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is given in either 3 or 4 doses. In a 3-dose schedule, it is given at 2 months old, 4 months old, and 12-15 months old. Depending on the type of vaccine used, there may also be a dose at 6 months old. You should refer to your pediatrician in order to determine which is available.
Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) is given in 4 doses. Once at 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, and 12-15 months old.
Inactivated poliovirus (IPV) is given in 4 doses. Once at 2 months old, 4 months old, 6-18 months old, and a booster dose at 4-6 years old.
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is given in 2 doses. Once at 12-15 months old, and 4-6 years old.
Varicella (VAR) is given in 2 doses. Once at 12-15 months old, and 4-6 years old.
Hepatitis A (HepA) is given in 2 doses. Once at 1 year in age, and another at least 6 months later.
Meningococcal is given in 1 dose, usually at 11-12 years of age. Sometimes, a second dose is given to high risk patients.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is given in 2 doses. Once between the ages of 9-14, and the second dose 6-12 months later.
Influenza is recommended annually.
As you can see, there are a number of things to take into consideration when you have to make the important decision about vaccines for your child. Debates across the country persist because there are really two sides to this argument. Your child could contract some debilitating, life-altering disease if you choose not to vaccinate them, or there could be a risk of injury or death if you do vaccinate them. For most parents, the decision to vaccinate their children is one they believe does not only benefit their own offspring, but is also the best choice for their entire community. Academic groups such as the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics continually study and learn about different aspects of various diseases, as well as the best way to treat or prevent them. Once they are confident with their results and know how to prevent these diseases, using as much Science as we have available today, they strive to educate the general population of the United States. Hence, the recommendations that are currently advised for babies born in this country.