As a parent, you make decisions every day to keep your child safe and healthy, which include keeping your child up-to-date on vaccines to help protect against serious diseases.
Learning about vaccines will help you better understand why the disease protection they provide is so important for you and your family.
When germs get into your child's body - through their eyes, nose, mouth, or open cuts - they attack and multiply. This is called an infection, which is what makes your child sick. Your child's immune system then has to work to fight it off.
If your child has received a vaccine to protect him against a disease, it will help his immune system safely fight off the disease, and develop immunity. Vaccines act like, or imitate, an infection. This "imitation" infection does not cause illness, but instead, it causes the immune system to react in a way similar to how it does to a real infection. As a result, your child's immune system will create cells to recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future. This protection is called immunity.
Immunity Stops Outbreaks
Immunity is important to protect your child against vaccine-preventable diseases, like whooping cough - also known as pertussis - and chickenpox, both of which still occur in the United States.
If people stopped vaccinating, even the few cases of the vaccine-preventable diseases that don't occur as commonly in the United States, like measles, could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases. Some of these diseases are still common in other parts of the world. You may think this isn't a problem if you don't travel to these countries, but your child could come into contact with international travelers anywhere in your community. Kids that are not fully vaccinated and are exposed to a disease can become seriously sick and spread it through a community.
To stop the spread of a disease, the majority of a community has to be immunized against that disease.
Timing Is Everything
When you vaccinate your child according to CDC's recommended schedule, you are providing him with the best protection early in life.
The CDC sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from a group of medical and public health experts called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This group carefully studies all safety and effectiveness data to make recommendations about vaccines. The ACIP also looks at how severe the disease is, and the number of children who get it when there is no vaccine.
Vaccines Give You the Power to Protect
Immunizations have helped to greatly improve the health of children in the United States. By continuing to vaccinate your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule, you are giving him the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses before he is two years old.
To learn more about immunizations, visit the CDC online at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents or call 800-CDC-INFO.