Vaccinations for Children: A Must Read (cont.)
Why do children need so many shots?
This adds up to a lot of shots, and several are usually given at the same time. Some parents worry that it is not safe to give several shots at once, or that they may not work as well, or that they will overload the child's immune system. But studies have shown these fears to be unfounded. Vaccinations are just as safe and just as effective when given together as they are when given separately. The immune system is exposed to many foreign substances every day, and will not be overburdened by vaccines.
Several "combination vaccines" already exist (such as MMR and DTaP) in which multiple vaccines are given in a single shot, and this reduces the number of shots needed. More combinations are being developed, so in the future, even fewer shots will be needed for the same number of vaccines. Why are vaccines given at such an early age? Vaccines are given at an early age because the diseases they prevent can strike at an early age. Some diseases are far more serious or common among infants or young children.
For example, up to 60% of severe disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B occurs in children under 12 months of age. Infants less than 6 months of age are at highest risk for serious complications of pertussis - 72% of children under 6 months who get pertussis must be hospitalized, and 84% of all deaths from pertussis are among children under 6 months. The ages at which vaccines are recommended are not arbitrary. They are chosen to give children the earliest and best protection against disease.
How serious are these diseases?
These diseases aren't as common as they used to be, but they haven't changed. They can still lead to pneumonia, choking, brain damage, heart problems, liver cancer, and blindness in children who are not immune. They still kill children every year, even in the United States.
What will happen if my child doesn't get these shots?
What are my child's chances of being exposed to these diseases?
Are shots safe?
Do shots always work?
What if my child didn't start her shots on time, or gets behind schedule?
Will they still work?
Isn't getting all these shots expensive?
The above information has been provided with the kind permission of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).
Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004
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