With school starting so soon, one thing on many parents’ minds is vaccinations. Most children in this country are vaccinated on schedule from birth. The tiny percentage of American children who are not vaccinated are not largely for religious, medical, or other personal reasons. Both Missouri and Illinois allow religious and medical vaccine exemptions in public school districts.
Making the decision whether or not to vaccinate your child is not an easy one and should not be taken lightly. The diseases we vaccinate against are often serious diseases with potentially serious consequences. Yet, on the other hand, stories like Jenny McCarthy’s and perhaps even from friends and family members who have had similar bad experiences, give us pause, and rightfully so. There’s only one chance to get it right; once the vaccine is injected, it can’t be removed. How do you make the right decision for your family?
It’s important to research each vaccine thoroughly, along with your family history. Many times, when there is a vaccine reaction in a child, there is a family history of vaccine reactions. If someone in your family has had a serious or life-threatening vaccine reaction (or certain neurological conditions such as MS), your child may be better off waiting to get that vaccine or not getting that vaccine altogether. Talk to your health care provider about your family history and discuss your concerns and your options. Know that you are not legally required to vaccinate your child, and if you are pressured, find a new health care provider.
It’s important to know your child’s health history and vaccine ingredients. If your child has allergies to eggs, MSG, aluminum, thimerosal, or certain antibiotics, talk to your doctor before getting any vaccine. There may be alternative formulations, but even if there aren’t, a life-threatening reaction is considered more of a risk than the disease itself.
It’s important to weigh risks and benefits carefully. You may decide that you’d prefer your child to catch chicken pox naturally, since it is more likely to confer lifetime immunity than the varicella vaccine. That’s a logical decision. But if your child has any health issues that put him at a higher risk for complications from chicken pox (asthma, for example), you may choose to rethink that decision. You may decide the shot is the safer choice for your child.
Finally, rather than skip vaccinations altogether, it may be a better choice for your family to selectively vaccinate, to delay vaccinations, or to vaccinate on an alternative schedule. Vaccines do not have to be an “all-or-nothing” choice. There can be a variety of choices that may be right for your family and your child. Don’t fall for the dogma or hype from either side. And keep in mind that your decision affects not only your child but those around you as well. Make this an educated choice, because it could literally be a life or death choice.
If you do not currently have a health care provider, contact the St. Louis County Health Department about immunization information for your children.
Learn more about vaccines at Vaccines FAQs and Frontline Interviews.
Sources: CDC.gov Who should NOT get Vaccines; Attachment Parenting Pediatrics Childhood Vaccines; AskDrSears.com
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