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PUBLISHED: 5:32 PM on Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Five important reasons to immunize your child
National Infant Immunization Week is April 19-26
You want to do what is best for your children. You know about the importance of car seats, baby gates, and other ways to keep them safe. But, did you know that one of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations?

Every day, nearly 12,000 babies are born in the United States. Every year in Alaska approximately 10,000 babies are born. These new citizens need on-time immunizations to protect them against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two. Every year, thousands of children become ill and suffer needlessly from diseases that could have been prevented by timely childhood immunizations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should young children be vaccinated?

Infants and children are more likely to develop complications or die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunization is one

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are very safe and effective. Like any other medicine, they can occasionally cause mild reactions like a sore arm or a slight fever. Serious reactions are rare. Getting the diseases is much more dangerous than the vaccine.

When should vaccines begin?

The first vaccine, for Hepatitis B, is given at birth. Most vaccines are given before children are two years old, but they will need more vaccines before starting school and as they get older.

What would happen if my child didn't get these shots?

The chance of them never being exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease is rare. If your child were exposed to any of these diseases there is a good chance they would get the disease. Your child could spread the disease to other children and adults who are not immune.

What are my child's chances of being exposed to diseases?

Some of these diseases are rare in the United States today, so the chances of exposure are small. However, these diseases may be common in other parts of the world and are only a plane ride away. Other diseases are still fairly common in the U.S.

Do vaccines always work?

Vaccines work most of the time. Most infant immunizations give immunity to 90%-99% of the kids who get them.

Are vaccines expensive?

If you go to a private doctor, vaccines might be covered by your health insurance. A program called "Vaccines for Children" (VFC) provides vaccines at no cost for children who are enrolled in Medicaid, don't have health insurance, or who are American Indian or Alaska Native.

Where can I get more info?

Talk with your health care provider or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) INFO Contact Center at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). You can also go to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines .

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 19-26, is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases. The United States will join with countries in the Western Hemisphere and Europe to celebrate Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) and European Immunization Week to make the importance of infant immunization an international event.

"Think about joining in with the Vaccinate Juneau's Kids Coalition by taking your child to their healthcare provider to ensure that they are fully immunized" says Dr. Amy Dressel, Pediatrician with Glacier Pediatrics in Juneau, Alaska and a member of the Vaccinate Juneau's Kids Coalition.

Immunizations can save your child's life. Because of advances in medical science, your child can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children have been eliminated completely and others are close to being gone - primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. One example of the great impact vaccines can have is the eradication of polio in the United States. Polio was once America's most-feared disease causing death and paralysis across the country but today, thanks to vaccination, there are no reports of polio in the United States.

Vaccination is safe and effective. All vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The most comprehensive scientific studies and reviews have not found a link between vaccines and autism. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies also agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children now recognized to have autism.

Immunization protects others you care about. Serious vaccine-preventable diseases still occur. Unfortunately, some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive vaccinations due to allergies, illness, weakened immune systems, or other reasons. To help keep these individuals safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.

Immunizations can save your family time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be kept out of schools or daycare facilities. If an outbreak should occur, un-vaccinated children can be denied attendance at childcare and school. A prolonged illness or outbreak can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills, or long-term disability care. In comparison, getting vaccinated against these diseases in Alaska, at present, is available at no or low cost. Currently in Alaska all recommended infant and childhood vaccines are available at no cost for children through the age of 18 years. For more information contact your healthcare provider or local Public Health Center. You can also call the Alaska Immunization Hotline, 888-430-4321 or 269-8088 in Anchorage, or visit the Alaska Immunization Program website at www.epi.alaska.gov/immunize.

Immunization protects future generations. The success of vaccination has led to the near elimination of some previously common and life-threatening diseases. Most parents, grandparents and even healthcare providers have never seen the devastation caused by vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio or measles. However, these diseases still exist in the world. Vaccination is necessary to keep outbreaks of preventable diseases from occurring.

Vaccines have reduced and in some cases eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations before. For example, smallpox vaccination helped eradicate that disease world wide. Your children don't have to get smallpox shots any more because the disease no longer exists. If we keep vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that diseases like polio and measles won't infect, cripple, or kill children.

"Childhood immunizations, breastfeeding, a whole foods based diet and regular physical activity are the cornerstones of infection and disease prevention." says Dr. Joy Neyhart, DO, FAAP, Pediatrician in Juneau. Healthcare providers play a critical role in educating parents about the importance of immunization and ensuring that infants are fully immunized. Immunization schedules change on a regular basis due to advances in healthcare vaccines.

For more information about the importance of infant immunization, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines or www.epi.alaska.gov/immunize.


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