On May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization announced that the horrible disease of smallpox had been eradicated around the world. Vaccination, of course, played a large role in the eradication of smallpox and we have it, largely, to thank for the near disappearance of the disease. But vaccines don’t just help the people who receive them; they also help those who can’t. Herd immunity from illnesses like smallpox happens when enough of the population receives the vaccine so that those who have compromised immune systems and cannot receive the vaccine are not exposed to the disease at all. This has been proven to be an effective way to reduce the incidence of contagious diseases and even eliminate them from the planet.
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William Foege, an epidemiologist who worked on the smallpox eradication campaign, wrote “Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health. Many of the successes of modern medicine have come from required vaccination campaigns.” Today, in honor of the 34th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, we’re giving you nine good reasons why vaccines are still the right thing for your kids.
1. Serious diseases are still a threat. Most parents living today have not experienced the devastating impacts of the uncontrolled diseases of the past. Diseases like polio, measles and whooping cough ravaged millions of children in the past and still exist today. Vaccines protects your child from these illnesses.
2. Vaccines are safe. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. While vaccine allergies and side effects do occur, these effects are extremely rare. Vaccines are safe and are not likely to injure your child.
3. Children need protection early. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognize 16 dangerous diseases that your child should be vaccinated against. Any one of these diseases could potentially kill your child or adversely impact the rest of his/her life. The CDC sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—a group of medical and public health experts. This schedule is also approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The recommended childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable.
4. Immunization protects others as well as your child. Vaccination doesn’t just protect the person vaccinated. It affects others as well. Vaccination of healthy children protects children and adults that cannot be vaccinated due to allergy to the vaccine or illness. These individuals are less likely to contract a preventable disease if the people around them are vaccinated.
5. Immunizations can save you time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or child care facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care.
6. Immunization protects future generations (ie: smallpox eradication the result of vaccination). Smallpox has been eradicated. Other dangerous childhood diseases, like Rubella, have had their occurrence seriously reduced. Future generations will have less risk of getting these diseases, due to the success of vaccination programs.
7. Vaccines strengthen your body’s natural immunity. Vaccination strengthens your body’s natural immunity, and not just to the disease vaccinated for. Studies show that vaccinated children have less overall infections than non-vaccinated children.
8. Vaccination protects those too old or too young to be vaccinated by creating a disease-free community. Some vaccines cannot be given to infants or the elderly. Again, if the people around them are vaccinated, unvaccinated people are less likely to get a preventable disease.