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August is National Immunization Month: Get your children’s shots

With younger children preparing for school, older students preparing for college and the entire community preparing for flu season: what better month than August to observe National Immunization Month? National Immunization Month recognizes the importance of staying current with immunizations throughout your entire life.

“Immunizations are the only way to effectively protect yourself and your loved ones from a number of potentially dangerous, dehabilitating, and even deadly diseases. For this reason, it is imperative that everyone receives all of their immunizations at the recommended ages,” said Jonathan Shook, M.D with the Hattiesburg Clinic Department of Pediatrics.

Despite, or perhaps because of immunizations’ effectiveness, parents have begun to question the continued need to immunize their children.

“This is a generation that has never witnessed the tragedies caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Although once considered common childhood maladies, these diseases are now either nonexistent or extremely rare. Many people no longer see them as a threat, but what they don’t realize is that if we discontinue immunizations, these diseases will quickly come back full force and we’ll have an epidemic on our hands. It has already happened in other parts of the world, and it can happen here as well if we are not vigilant.”

Unfortunately, this is only one of many misconceptions that people often have on the subject of immunization. Below is a list of common misconceptions that will hopefully help you separate fact from fear.

There is a good chance of contracting the same disease the vaccine was meant to protect you from.

There is no chance of contracting the disease from a vaccine made with dead or incomplete bacteria or virus. There is, however, an extremely small chance of contracting the disease from a vaccine made with a live virus. The disease contracted from the vaccine is always much milder than the disease would have been if contracted naturally, and the chances of contracting it from the vaccine at all are so small that it’s well worth the risk of immunization.

If everyone else is immunized, then there is no way for me to contract the disease and, therefore, no need for me to receive the immunization myself.

You can’t count on everyone else to be responsible for you; after all, it is likely that others are thinking along the same lines. It is oftentimes easy to forget that although these diseases may be nonexistent or rare in the United States, they are all too common in other parts of the world. In this international world that we live in, it would be easy for a disease-carrying traveler to infect a single un-immunized individual, who could in turn infect another and cause an outbreak. That is why the best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones is to practice community immunity: the more people immunized, the fewer openings for disease to spread.

Immunizations are not always effective, so why bother receiving them at all?

Rarely does anything work every time, but immunization is the only effective way to prevent disease with an 85% to 95% percent success rate. Immunization may not be 100% effective, but it has already controlled and even eradicated many diseases that caused the death of tens of thousands of people and the dehabilitation of many more. Because immunizations are continuously being researched, their safety and effectiveness improves all the time.

Immunizations have bad side effects.

The most common reactions to an immunization include redness, swelling, fever, and rash. More severe reactions do occur, but they are extremely rare and it is well worth the risk in order to gain the immunity. After all, you have a much higher chance of contracting the disease if not immunized than you do of having a severe reaction if immunized.

Vaccines cause multiple sclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome, autism, immune dysfunction, diabetes, neurological disorders, allergic rhinitis, eczema, and asthma.

There have been rumors of immunization causing a variety of medial problems; however, scientific research does not support this claim. These rumors have most likely resulted from the fact that these problems are discovered around the same time that the child is immunized. Research has shown that symptoms appear long before the child received the vaccine; therefore, immunization is not to blame.

It is better to gain immunity naturally than artificially through immunization.

Gaining immunity naturally would involve having the disease, which could quite possibly lead to dehabilitation or even death. Immunization is the only way to gain immunity without suffering through a dangerous disease.

These diseases were already under control before immunization due to improved living conditions.

While improved living conditions certainly helped control the spread of disease, vaccine-preventable diseases did not truly become a rarity in society until after widespread immunization.

My child is the picture of health; he/she does not need to be immunized.

The best time to immunize is when your child is healthy. Immunizations are meant to prevent diseases, not cure them, so if you wait until your child has already contracted the disease it will be too late for the vaccine to take effect.

Too many immunizations can overload your immune system.

From the time you are born, you are exposed to so many germs every day that your immune system is more than capable of handling a few more.

The importance of immunization is difficult to convey with a single article alone. By keeping up to date with all of your immunizations, you are not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, you are helping to protect your entire community. Community immunity ensures that the United States will remain a healthy environment for future generations.