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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

Immunization Is Not a Matter of Choice

1. My baby is healthy. There is no reason to take my youngster to the physician.

Just because a baby is healthy now does not mean he or she will not get a vaccine-preventable illness. Immunizations can protect against diseases such as measles, mumps, polio and chickenpox. Some of these diseases can be a serious threat to your baby and other family members.

2. My baby will not get measles or polio. Nobody gets these illnesses any more.

Polio was eliminated from the United States in 1979 thanks to the polio vaccines. Until polio is eliminated from the world, however, it would be a mistake to stop immunization against this once deadly disease. Due to the high rates of travel between the United States and countries where polio is still present, an infected traveler could easily pass along the disease to a unimmunized child.

In addition, failure to immunize can lead to new outbreaks of disease. In 1989-1991, a measles epidemic in the United States resulted in more than 55,000 reported cases, 11,000 hospitalized and about 130 deaths. Half these deaths were in young children.

3. Childhood diseases are not serious.

Most vaccine preventable diseases are potentially fatal. For example, tetanus kills three of the 10 people it strikes and diphtheria kills one of the 10. Polio, pertussis, measles mumps, rubella (German measles), hepatitis B and spinal meningitis are also deadly but preventable.

4. Vaccines can cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Extensive medical research has shown that there is no relationship between receiving an immunization and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The reason some people in the media have suggested a relationship is because the greatest risk of SIDS is at 4 months, and infants receive their primary immunizations at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.

5. The DPT vaccine against whooping cough could produce side effects.

A pertussis vaccine, introduced in 1996, has virtually eliminated all the side effects associated with the DTP vaccine. The old vaccine was made by taking pertussis bacteria and the toxin it produced and then inactivating the mixture with chemicals to make the vaccine. The new vaccine, known as the DTaP, is made from the toxin - whole bacteria are not present. The resulting immunization gives the same immunity against pertussis without the side effects.

5. I cannot take the time off from work to take my baby to the physician.

Taking the time now to immunize your children can save you much more time later if your child becomes ill. Childhood illnesses such as measles can put a child in bed for weeks—or even in the hospital.

6.I cannot afford to go to the physician.

Most private and public health plans pay for childhood immunizations. Free or low cost vaccinations for children are available through the Vaccines for Children Program. Public Health Clinics are required by law to provide vaccinations to people unable pay. There is no charge for the vaccine; however, an administration fee may be charged.

Parents without a regular health care provider for their child should call the National Immunization Program Hotline to locate the nearest place to get life-protecting shots. Their number is 1-800-232-2522.

In addition, vaccines save money since a child with a preventable illness can cost parents 30 times more than the vaccine. Vaccines save money on both direct (medication and hospital expenses) and indirect (lost wages for parents and baby sitter expenses) costs of diseases. For example, for every dollar spent on Measles/Mumps/Rubella immunization programs, as much as $21 can be saved.

7.I'll take them for shots when they are old enough for school.

Children need most of their vaccines before the age of 2 years. For some diseases, children younger than age 2 are at the greatest risk. For example, between 1992 and 1994, 78 percent of deaths due to pertussis (whooping cough) were in children younger than 6 months of age. One of four American 2-year-olds lacks one or more recommended vaccinations. Most child care providers and schools will not accept children who do not have all their immunizations. Do not wait - keep your children up to date.

8. My physician did not tell me my baby needed shots.

It is up to parents to make sure their children are protected. Therefore, parents should keep records of their child's immunizations in a safe place and bring it with them to every health care visit. Ask the physician or other health care provider to look at the record and tell whether vaccinations are needed.


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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