The debate on whether to vaccinate your children or not has been raging over the last few years. Claims about autism, the spread of disease, and the reasons for vaccinating or not vaccinating have been shared again and again, with no common ground being found between the two parties. While it is ultimately your decision, we urge you to do your research on the dangers of infectious diseases and claims relating to the risk factor of vaccinations.
Below are the top four reasons to make sure your child is vaccinated.
The risk of adverse events from vaccines are greatly outweighed by the risks of adverse events from the diseases
Many claims surrounding vaccines have arisen over the years. Most of these focus on vaccines causing certain disabilities or disorders, such as autism. However, studies have found no basis for these claims. Gaining ‘natural immunity’ means putting your child through unnecessary suffering and risk of a severe or even fatal outcome. Even something like chickenpox, which most children will fight off easily, can leave severe and long-term effects if a child is unvaccinated. In bad scenarios, it can even be fatal. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare, and definitely less rare than illness or disability caused by contracting something that the child was not vaccinated against.
When babies are born, they are immediately and consistently exposed to many different bacteria and viruses, and their immune system copes well. Thus, there is no reason that their immune system cannot cope with vaccinations. The bacteria and viruses used in vaccines are weakened or killed in order to avoid extreme adverse reactions, and there are far fewer of them than the natural bugs that babies and children come into contact with every day.
Vaccines save lives
According to WHO, immunisation averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. Some diseases which once resulted in thousands of children dying or becoming permanently disabled have been eliminated fully, or have reduced in numbers dramatically – mostly due to effective and safe vaccinations.
The other thing to consider is that when children are vaccinated, your larger family and even the community as a whole begin to benefit from it. If your child is vaccinated, you can help stop the spread of infectious disease between people. Very high vaccine coverage is needed to prevent outbreaks, so if the number of children being vaccinated falls, then the disease numbers will increase accordingly.
There are some exceptions to the rule that children can be safely immunised. For example, those with severe allergies to certain ingredients may have adverse effects. Children with weakened immune systems due to an illness or a medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, also may not be able to safely receive some vaccines. If you are unsure, ask your paediatrician.
Serious diseases still exist
Vaccinations have done a spectacular job in eradicating and greatly reducing the prevalence of some highly infectious childhood diseases. For instance, smallpox has been completely eradicated, saving over five million lives per year. The prevalence of polio has decreased by over 99% in less than twenty years, since an effective vaccine was developed. However, many these illnesses are not completely eradicated and do still exist. There are other illnesses that can affect your child, too – whooping cough, tetanus, pneumonia and measles, to name a few. While pneumonia may not sound serious to you, it can be fatal for young children, and the risk is real. If your child contracts these illnesses, they could suffer permanent disabilities or die. Safe and effective vaccines exist for these conditions. Recent outbreaks of disease have been steadily decreasing in prevalence are often attributed to people choosing not to vaccinate children, thereby allowing the disease to spread.
Vaccines can save you time and money
There are obvious medical costs associated with treating a sick child. If hospitalisation is required, costs can easily skyrocket. Medical bills, travel expenses and time off work to care for your child can all add up very quickly. If permanent disability occurs, there are lifelong expenses to consider. On the other hand, vaccines are fairly affordable and is a good investment. If you have medical aid, many childhood vaccinations will be covered – just check with your scheme.
Vaccination certificates are required by many schools, and some crèches, nursery schools and even primary schools would prefer not to accept unvaccinated children. Vaccinating your children, therefore, will make the school acceptance process that much speedier.