The school year is about to begin and families are preparing for first days and new grade levels. The back-to-school list includes backpacks, pencils, textbooks, and lunch boxes, but could there be something missing? School supplies are important, but your child might need to get up-to-date on their immunizations as well.
Childhood immunizations are important not just for family health, but for the health of all children in a community. Diseases like smallpox and whooping cough are prevented by vaccines and have been keeping children safe for years. But some parents might be worried about vaccinations. Are there risks?
Let’s take a deeper look at immunizations as families get ready for school.
How Immunizations Prevent Disease
We all know what vaccines do. They introduce your body to an illness and equip the antibodies in your system to fight off infections. Annual flu vaccines target possible strains for influenza, while vaccines like Hepatitis A and B can shield your liver from many possible infections throughout your life. But vaccinating one individual doesn’t create true immunization.
The most effective immunization comes from group immunization, sometimes called ‘pack’ or ‘herd’ immunity. This refers to a community of people all possessing the same immunities, which can prevent diseases from surviving. Since bacteria and viruses often need to infect hosts in order to spread or adapt, group immunities close off any outlet for them to infect others. This group immunization can act as a shield for communities, and even countries, to minimize deadly diseases, and for certain people with immune deficiencies or allergies to certain vaccines, group immunizations are life-saving.
Group Immunizations for Kids
Children are more vulnerable to many diseases, and with developing bodies, their immune systems are not always prepared to fight diseases effectively. This is why childhood vaccines are so important, and why doctors recommend that children begin vaccinations when they’re babies. Once a child enters school, they can be exposed to many more infections and diseases simply by being around so many new people.
There are children who might have genetic disorders or serious conditions which prevents them from getting vaccines, and these children are especially vulnerable to diseases. They rely on their classmates for immunity.
The Effectiveness of Vaccines
With modern medicine, sometimes it is hard to imagine what life must have been like in past generations. We’re so used to annual flu shots, X-Rays, and readily available medication for everyday ailments, but the evolution of vaccines shows us how effective the immunization process has been for public health.
Smallpox is one of the most famous diseases regarding vaccines. It used to be a devastating disease that could sweep entire cities and countries with dangerous infections. As early as the 1790s, though, there were techniques being developed to make people immune. Early forms of vaccines were experimental and risky, but throughout the 1800s, treatments and immunization methods for smallpox got more and more effective. By 1977, less than 200 years after the first rudimentary vaccines were performed, smallpox was eradicated completely from the world. With enough people immune to the disease, it had no human host to live in, and so the dangerous disease went extinct. Other disease, like polio and tuberculosis, are on a decline in the world today thanks to modern vaccines, and as medical technology continues to develop, many more severe illnesses will be eradicated, just like smallpox.
As your children begin the new school year, it is a good idea to check on their vaccines and immunizations. Certain school districts may require certain vaccines, or family health history might dictate certain vaccinations needs for your family. Consulting with a pediatrician about what is best for your child’s health is always a good place to start when thinking about vaccinations. We also encourage families to research vaccines if you have any personal concerns about immunization processes.
NW Indiana ER & Hospital values the health of every student in our community. Our doctors are trained in pediatric care for any household emergency, and in the case of serious illnesses, we are here to help 24/7, Learn more!