Vaccines protect kids against unseen dangers

Car seat? Check.

Baby gate? Check.

Toxic products out of reach? Check.

Parents take many steps to protect children from dangers they can see. With immunizations, they can also protect children against dangers that go unseen.

“The benefit of vaccines is that children survive many more diseases than they used to,” said Dr. Tanya Kapka. “But because parents have hardly ever seen them, they may think these diseases are gone. They’re not.”

When enough of a population is unvaccinated, as happened in the measles outbreak in Disneyland in 2014-15, it is a reminder of the important advantage that vaccines give our kids.

Babies come into the world with many of their mother’s immunities. They fight off thousands of germs every day. But they still need protection against serious viruses and bacteria, often carried by other kids.

“One thing we see is that unvaccinated school-age kids and teens carry diseases to newborns at home,” said Dr. Kapka. “That’s preventable if all children are up-to-date on their shots.”

By age 2, a child can be immunized against 14 diseases. Vaccines make children immune to a disease without having to suffer it, or risk harm from it.

“Vaccines are a safe and highly efficient way to protect your child,” she said. “Be sure to get the complete series of shots for full immunization.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, infants and toddlers are scheduled for shots about every two to three months up to age 2.

There’s no copay for immunizations under most health plans, including the Oregon Health Plan. That’s because vaccines are such a great prevention tool. The shots can be timed with well-baby visits, when doctors also check to see children are on track in their development.

A century ago, there was only one vaccine: smallpox, which has been eliminated from the world by a successful vaccination effort. Now children can get protection from polio, whooping cough, measles, flu and more.

As parents are checking their child safety list, they should be sure to include immunizations.

“This is the best protection your child can have,” said Dr. Kapka. “Get your shot schedule and stay on track.”