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Four reasons to vaccinate your children

“Many life-threatening diseases are not seen today in the United States because of the development and implementation of vaccines,” says Murray. “Polio and smallpox are examples. Other diseases like measles have been dramatically decreased.”

by Denise Parrish

Still, more than 900,000 American children are not fully immunized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the new school year approaches, Murray urges parents to understand the value of immunizations and to be sure their children’s shots are up to date.

He cites four main reasons:

1. Immunizations can save your child’s life. Advances in medical science enable your child to be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some potentially fatal diseases have been eliminated completely and others are close to being gone – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.

2. Immunizations protect others you care about. Serious vaccine-preventable diseases still occur, striking groups such as infants who have not yet been fully immunized and those unable to receive vaccinations due to allergies, illness, weakened immune systems or other reasons. Full immunization in the general population is important to prevent the spread of diseases to vulnerable friends and loved ones.

3. Immunizations can save time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease will likely be kept out of school or daycare. Likewise, a prolonged illness can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills and/or long-term disability care. Immunization is a good investment and usually covered by health insurance plans. For those without insurance or the underinsured, ask your health care provider about the Vaccines for Children program, a federally funded program that provides free vaccines to children.

4. Vaccinations are safe and effective. Vaccines are recommended only after a long and careful review by scientists and health care professionals. The side effects of vaccines (potential pain, redness or tenderness at the injection site) are minimal compared to the pain, discomfort and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent. Studies repeatedly debunk the link of vaccines to autism, sudden infant death syndrome, immune dysfunction or asthma—findings supported by groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Institute of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and CDC.

Murray stresses the importance of immunizations both in well-child care and for periodic updating in adults. For more information, visit cdc.gov/vaccines or talk to your pediatrician.

Dr. Dennis Murray is Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University. He received his medical degree from the University of Michigan and completed his residency and fellowship at Children’s of Northern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively. His clinical interests include childhood immunizations; viral infections of children; infections in child care settings and public policy of infectious diseases and immunizations. His research interests include childhood immunization safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity; prevention of RSV in high risk children; and influenza disease and prevention in children with chronic medical problems. Murray is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and serves on its Committee on Infectious Diseases.

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