Vaccines are one of the most important health advances in history, according to the New York Times. As of 2010, there are 13 vaccines recommended for children that protect against serious or fatal diseases. Other vaccines are also recommended for protection from common childhood illnesses such as the seasonal flu and the chicken pox.
Vaccines contain a tiny amount of the disease they are meant to protect against, which is then injected into the body. The microorganisms that cause the disease are either weakened or killed to make sure that the body can easily fight them. The immune system responds by fighting the infection, creating a memory of the disease. This memory is what prevents a vaccinated child from ever contracting the disease again. If a child is exposed to the disease in the future, her body will be able to fight and overcome it very quickly. Vaccines are usually given as an injection.
As of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends 15 vaccines for children. Some of the vaccines are combined into one injection to protect against more than one disease, such as the MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Other vaccines recommended are diphtheria, haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), hepatitis A and B, meningococcal, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumococcal, polio, rotavirus, tetanus, influenza and varicella (chicken pox).
Vaccines are given at different times, depending on the age of the child. All childhood vaccines, save varicella, require two or more doses, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. Some, like the influenza vaccine, are recommended yearly for children over 6 months old. Hepatitis B is given at birth. When your child is around 2 or 3 months old, he will receive another hepatitis B injection, as well as vaccines for Hib, diphtheria, rotavirus, polio, tetanus, pertussis, pneumococcal and meningococcal. Two months later, he will receive another round of all of these except hepatitis B. At around 6 months of age, he will receive another dose of hepatitis B, plus a third dose of the other vaccines previously given. When he turns a year old, he will receive the MMR vaccine, the varicella vaccine, Hib and hepatitis A. Between the ages of 12 months and 23 months, he may receive a fourth dose of some of the vaccines, but that can vary depending on the vaccine combination used.
There is some controversy regarding the use of vaccines. Many parents do not feel that it is entirely safe to give their children so many vaccines at such a young age. Some believe that there is a link between some of the ingredients in vaccines — in particular, thimerosal — and autism. As of 2010, several studies show that there is no link between autism and vaccines.
Vaccines have dramatically lowered the death rate from several serious diseases. In the case of smallpox, the use of vaccines has completely wiped the disease from the face of the earth. Still, a few parents are wary. Schools generally require proof of vaccination before they will admit a child; however, many states allow parents to “opt out” of this requirement due to religious or personal reasons. In addition, there are a few medical reasons why a child should not get vaccinated. Children who are allergic to eggs, for example, should not get some vaccines, as they contain egg proteins.