Why Your Child Needs to Get Back on Track with Immunizations
If your kids missed their shots due to COVID-19, it's time to schedule a doctor's appointment.
When doctors' offices closed during the coronavirus pandemic, millions of U.S. children fell behind on getting recommended shots. Now that medical offices are once again open for in-person visits, it's time to make sure your children get the immunizations they need.
How Immunizations Protect Your Child
Immunizations contain killed or extremely weak versions of a virus. Injecting small amounts of a virus into the body triggers the production of antibodies, proteins that find and attack viruses. If your child is exposed to a virus, these antibodies attack the virus before the child becomes sick. In some cases, children may need to receive a series of shots at specific intervals to maximize immunity.
Children won't become sick after receiving immunizations but may have a few mild side effects for a day or two, such as a low fever or fussiness. Some parents have been concerned that childhood immunizations may cause autism, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.
What Happens If Children Aren't Immunized
If your child doesn't receive immunizations, one or more of these things may happen.
- They may get sick. Immunizations protect from measles, mumps, tetanus, diphtheria, chickenpox, hepatitis, whooping cough, rotavirus, meningitis, the flu and other viral illnesses. These diseases can lead to serious health complications and may even cause death. Immunizing your child protects him or her from experiencing uncomfortable or potentially life-threatening complications from these illnesses.
- Illnesses may spread through communities. Immunizing the majority of the population keeps illnesses from spreading. The increase in measles cases in the U.S. offers a perfect illustration of this effect. Measles outbreaks occurred infrequently after the introduction of the measles vaccine in the late 1960s. Unfortunately, cases are once again rising due to anti-vaxxers, parents who don't believe in immunizing children. More than 1,200 measles cases occurred in 31 states in 2019, which was the highest number of U.S. cases reported since 1992, according to the CDC.
- There may be lifelong consequences. Although your child may recover from a viral illness, life may never be the same. Some children develop permanent hearing or vision loss, become paralyzed, or suffer nerve, heart or organ damage. It's impossible to predict which children will recover with no lasting effects and which will develop severe and long-term complications.
- Public school may not be an option. Due to recent disease outbreaks, some school districts are eliminating immunization exemptions. Although personal or religious exemptions may no longer be allowed, exemptions for medically fragile children may still be accepted. If your district adopts a no-excuses policy, your unvaccinated child won't be able to attend public school.
Immunizing children offers a simple, safe way to protect their health. If your kids have fallen behind on their shots due to coronavirus closures, now is the perfect time to make an appointment for your children to get the immunizations they need.
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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD