Childhood Immunizations: Prevention Is Cure For Childhood Diseases
Describes diseases that can be prevented by immunizations and vaccination. A brief history of vaccines and an immunization schedule for children from birth to six years of age.
It is important to have children vaccinated. Reasons for childhood immunizations are many. First, by state law parents must immunize a child if that child is to attend a public school. The second, and most important reason why a child should be immunized, is for the overall health of that child, and because diseases like measles, mummps and rubella do not have a cure. Once contracted, they can only be treated symptomatically until they run their course. Hepatitus B is a disease that lasts a lifetime. Prevention, in the form of a vaccine, is the only cure.
Vaccines are dead or weakened microorganisms that are introduced into the body for the sole purpose of producing antibodies that provide immunities. The first vaccine was developed in the 1700's by Dr. Edward Jenner, who noticed milk maids that handled cows infected with cow pox did not seem to be affected by small pox even though blisters did appear on their hands. Dr. Jenner put two and two together and came up with a vaccine for small pox. This vaccine would eventually lead to the eradication or small pox in the twentieth-century world. Today, immunizations play an important role in the health of children around the world. They prevent diseases that, at one time, caused severe life long complications and even death.
At the beginning of the twentieth-century, diphtheria affected about 200,000 people each year. This disease was fatal in about five to ten percent of the cases. Today about ninety-seven percent of children are immune to this disease because of the DTP and the DTaP vaccine. These vaccines also protect against tetanus, an illness marked by severe muscular contractions, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
The inactivated poliovirus vaccine(IPV) and the oral poliovirus vaccine(OPV) protect against poliomyelitis and illness that often left its victims paralyzed and susceptable to future complications.
Other childhood diseases that can be avoided by immunizing include measles, mumps, rubella or German measles, and Hepatitus B. A vaccine for chicken pox is even available.
Many parents may have concerns about the safety of vaccines. As with any medicine, side effects can occur. The risk of side effects, however is minute and must be weighed against the possibility of contracting a serious illness. The most common complaints are pain at the sight of the injection and/or a slight fever. Other, more serious complications that can result include severe allergic reactions, seizures that usually result from a high fever, brain damage, and paralysis. It must be emphasized that these side effects are rare. The risks are reduced even further if a dead or inactivated version of the vaccine is given. For specific concerns and questions the family doctor should be consulted.
Having a child immunized is a rather simple process. The child, however, may not agree. His or her pediatrician is often the administrator of an immunization, but they may also be obtained from the public health department at little or no cost. Below are the current recommendations for children birth to six years of age.
Shortly after Birth Hepatitus B
Two months Hepatitus B
DTP or DTaP(Diphtheria,
tetanus, and pertussis)
influenza type B)
Four months DTaP or DTP
Six months Hepatitus B
DTaP or DTP
IPV or OPV(Oral polio
Fifteen months DTaP or DTP
IPV or OPV
MMR(Measles, mumps, and
Four to six years DTaP or DTP
IPV or OPV
Immunizations are important for the overall health of a child. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, a cure for the diseases that can strike in childhood eludes science. Right now, prevention is the only cure.