Given the current measles outbreak, vaccines are in the news a lot right now. And there's plenty of debate over getting vaccinated; who needs to, when, and why?
We want to help you make the best decisions for your family. So with the help of Rebecca Madan, M.D., a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y., we've put together a vaccine cheat sheet of sorts. Here are the top 5 things you need to know about your child's immunization schedule:
1. The schedule is updated.
Each year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics, updates their schedule of recommended vaccinations, both for children birth through 6 years of age and for kids ages 7-18 years old. The 2015 versions are more user friendly than ever for parents and spell out which infections are covered by which vaccine. It's a great resource if you have questions.
2. There's no reason to delay injections.
It's common for parents to put off certain vaccinations for fear of overwhelming a young child's body. But Dr. Madan says there are several detriments to doing this. "You are not making the vaccine more safe by waiting," she explains. "In fact, you are extending the amount of time your child is susceptible to various illnesses." And spreading out vaccines means more doctor's visits and possibly more trauma for kids.
3. Every member of the family should get vaccinated.
An immunization schedule is not just for babies. Although it's very important to follow the recommended guidelines for infants, vaccinating all family members, especially if you plan to travel internationally, is equally vital. Dr. Madan urges parents to think about how vaccines protect vulnerable individuals, such as babies who can't receive certain vaccines right away (like measles), family members with chronic health issues who can't get vaccinated, grandparents and pregnant women.
4. Vaccines offer unparalleled protection.
One dose of the measles vaccine provides up to 95 percent protection against a highly contagious virus. Without the immunization, it's very likely an exposure will result in getting sick—very sick. One to three out of every 1,000 people who get measles will die. It's an illness that presents with a fever and rash, and it can result in pneumonia, brain swelling, long term neurologic impairment or death. Similarly, whooping cough, which puts two-thirds of babies who contract it in the hospital, can be avoided by a simple injection.
5. The risks of not getting vaccinated outweigh any risk from the vaccine.
Dr. Madan wants parents to know that what is in an immunization is a drop in the bucket compared to all the bacteria every child is exposed to on a daily basis. Furthermore, vaccines are extensively studied, and it's well known that the risk of getting one is minuscule compared to the risk of exposure to a potentially deadly illness.
Talk to your doctor about specific recommendations from local departments of health as they relate to measles outbreaks in your area. And call your doctor immediately if you suspect any member of your family has been exposed to measles or might be getting sick.