A Parents’ Guide to Children’s Vaccinations

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green parenting, Childhood Vaccines

When researching the latest news about vaccinating your children, you will undoubtedly find a lot of conflicting information, especially within the “green” community. One argument states that we are better off vaccinating our kids. The other side claims that childhood immunization is wrong and unnecessary. An increasing number of parents are deciding not to vaccinate their child or to delay the immunization shots. So what should parents do about vaccination? In this guide we provide some facts to consider when deciding on whether or not to vaccinate your child.

Very few things in life are guaranteed. Driving a car carries risk. So does walking on a sidewalk. Every day we make decisions by asking ourselves: Will the benefits of our decision outweigh the risks? This is a good question to ask when it comes to vaccinating our children. It’s important to obtain an objective perspective on the most important aspects to be considered when doing your own vaccine benefit/risk evaluation. So take a deep breath and let’s go down the vaccination checklist!

  • Benefits of vaccines
  • Vaccine side effects
  • False claims related to the use of vaccines
  • Vaccinations and being green
  • Tips for parents about vaccines

Benefits of vaccines

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Photo courtesy of scientificamerican.com

Although the history of vaccines dates back to the 18th century, it was around the beginning of the 20th century when scientists started using vaccines to prevent rabies, rubella, measles, diphtheria, and polio, among many others. Vaccines have dramatically reduced (and in some cases eradicated) many serious diseases. For thousands of years the life expectancy of human beings was only around 30 years or so. Only at the beginning of the 20th century was there a dramatic change. Many health experts attribute two main factors to the radical increase in life expectancy: antibiotics and vaccines.  Among scientists there’s virtually no debate about vaccines being able to immunize people against diseases. Some statistics that highlight this:

    • Diphtheria cases peaked in 1921 at over 200,000 in the United States. That same year, William Park ran a program to compare diphtheria cases among vaccinated children and those that were not vaccinated. The program included 180,000 children. He found that untested and unvaccinated children were 4 times more likely to suffer from the disease than vaccinated children. In 1997, there were only 5 cases of diphtheria (Source: “Risk, A practical guide for deciding what’s really safe and what’s really dangerous in the world around you” by David Ropeik and George Gray).
    • About 500,000 cases of measles occurred each year in the United States until 1963. That same year the first measles vaccine was licensed. When an outbreak of measles hit the U.S in 1989 it affected mostly areas with low vaccination rates. In 1999, there were only 86 cases of the disease (Source: “Risk, A practical guide for deciding what’s really safe and what’s really dangerous in the world around you” by David Ropeik and George Gray) .
    • Measles killed over 500,000 children around the world in 2003 with the highest death toll occurring in Africa. People in the U.S. that have not been vaccinated against measles are on average 35 times more likely to contract the disease than vaccinated individuals.
    • Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) kills about 300,000 children a year around the world.
    • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) affected 1 in 200 children just before the vaccine was introduced in 1988. Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Between 15 to 30 percent of affected children became hearing impaired and approximately 420 children died every year despite antibiotic therapy. In addition, the Hib vaccine has prevented the leading cause of acquired mental retardation in the U.S. By 1998, vaccination of pre-school children reduced the number of Hib cases by more than 99 percent.
    • Rubella (a viral disease) if a woman gets infected in early stages of pregnancy it can lead to serious birth defects in at least 20% of incidences. During the 1960s many infants were born with deafness, blindness, heart disease, mental retardation and other birth defects because of Rubella.
Children immunizations

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Not only do vaccines prevent development of potentially serious diseases, child vaccination programs help protect the entire community by reducing the spread of infectious agents. Generally, doctors recommend several vaccines for children, with some vaccines more optional than others, depending on the situation and the country you live in.

 

 

 

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits of vaccination it’s time to evaluate the risks involved.
Next: Vaccine side effects

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Author:Robert Rivera PhD

Proud dad and statistics university professor. His specialty is the use and construction of statistical methods. Also strategy analyst for Living Green with Baby

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