Protecting Children from Diseases - The Value of Vaccinations
By David Volz / August, 2011

August, apropos for South Floridians because of the new school year, is National Immunization Awareness Month. It is a reminder about the importance of immunizations to prevent the spread of disease. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the end of many terrible childhood diseases.

According to information from Broward Health (which includes Coral Springs and Broward General Medical Centers), one of the ten largest health care systems in the U.S., immunization is an easy way to protect children from diseases such as measles, mumps and diphtheria. Vaccinations are now available to prevent twenty-six diseases, eleven of which are recommended for children under age two.

Over the years, physicians have found that vaccines cause the body to develop immunity to a disease without the person having to actually suffer the disease. Vaccines expose the body to killed or weakened forms of a germ, causing the body to fight back with antibodies against the invader. In most cases, the germs should not result in sickness or serious side effects because of the germs' weakened or killed state.

Broward Health is hoping to dispel common myths about problems associated with vaccinations. Many people fear that their children will suffer severe side effects from vaccines. In reality, most responses to immunizations are minor and include swelling, rashes and fever. The American Academy of Pediatrics is testing vaccinations that reduce the possibility of side effects.

Another common myth is that having children immunized with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine will cause them to develop autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a study in 2002 looked at more than 500,000 children and found that those who received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination were not at a higher risk of developing autism than those children who had not received vaccinations. Brain abnormalities and genetic factors are considered the major cause of autism.

Some people fear that vaccines will give their children the very diseases that the vaccines are meant to protect them from. In reality, children can't develop a disease if they receive an immunization made from a partial or dead virus. Only vaccines made from weakened viruses like chicken pox, mumps, measles or rubella can produce symptoms. Most of the time, children will only develop mild symptoms of these diseases.

Another misconception is that because a disease has been eradicated there is no need for vaccinations. Although diseases like polio and measles are less common in the U.S. than they used to be, they continue to be a problem elsewhere in the world. A person who has not been vaccinated can contract a disease from an un-vaccinated world traveler, according to Broward Health.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that children receive vaccinations against diphtheria, influenza, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and other diseases. Adolescents should receive vaccinations against influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, pertussis and any vaccinations that they missed. Adult vaccines include influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, shingles, diphtheria, and pertussis.

According to the Bureau of Immunization, vaccines are safe and effective protection against disease. By remaining up-to-date on vaccinations, people can protect themselves and their families from disease. Because children are more vulnerable to infection, most vaccinations are given during the first six years of life. Some immunizations are recommended throughout the adolescent and adult years.

While some children fear getting these necessary shots and some parents have doubts about their side effects, immunization is a powerful tool in protecting the population of students from the spread of disease.

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