Prevention is better than cure. This saying has never been more appropriate than with reference to vaccinations. But, with the number of vaccinations prescribed for children, parents are getting increasingly concerned. The question of safety of vaccinations can raise a heated debate among doctors and parents alike. Most parents are worried about the potential dangers of vaccinations for kids and if there is a need to get their children vaccinated or not.
When taking a decision on vaccinations, it is crucial that parents get all the information on the pros and cons of vaccinations for children from their doctors. Only after getting all the relevant information, can a parent make an informed decision.
Types of childhood vaccinations
There are two main types of vaccines - live vaccines and killed or inactivated vaccines. Live vaccines are vaccines that contain disease causing antigens that are altered in such a way that weakens them to the point that they are no longer capable of causing the disease. Killed or inactivated vaccines contain microbes that have already been treated by chemical means to prevent them from replicating or causing diseases. This means that any kind of vaccine for children
cannot produce diseases or their symptoms, but can only help the body in creating antibodies that prevent that particular disease.
Vaccinations for children
Millions of children get vaccinated
daily. For a vaccine to make it to the market, it has to pass through a rigorous screening process consisting of several steps, and once its safety is confirmed, only then does it make it to the market.
Pros of childhood vaccination
Most vaccinations are generally quite safe for children and do not have any major side effects. The following are some of the pros of childhood vaccination
- Immunity: One very important advantage of vaccination is creating immunity against various childhood diseases through deliberate artificial stimulation of the body's defences. Ideally, this is done without causing any major side effects.
- Protection of the health of the community: Vaccination prevents diseases, and it's always better to prevent diseases than treat them. Among children, vaccinations not only prevent diseases and disorders, but also protect the health of the community, especially of those who are not immunized. For example, infants who are less than a year old cannot be given a measles vaccine, but can be infected by measles. This can happen if an older person contracts measles and passes it on to the infant. This can be prevented if people that are eligible for vaccination do get themselves vaccinated. Hence, immunization prevents spread of the disease to the rest of the community.
- Safety of vaccinations: Many parents believe that children are subjected to a lot of unnecessary vaccinations, especially in the first two years after birth. But, doctors believe that the antigens in vaccines are not doing any harm. In fact the antigens present in our immune system deal with new antigens every day. The only difference is that the vaccines intentionally introduce antigens, and since the immune system is used to fight off such antigens, the antigens introduced by the vaccine do not cause harm.
Cons of childhood vaccination
No vaccination is hundred percent safe, and there are always certain risks involved in vaccinations for kids. Following are some of the risks:
- General Side Effects: General side effects like pain, redness, headaches, swelling, or a small lump at the site of the injection are common. These side effects do not require immediate medical attention. However, if they persist for a long time, then it is better to consult a paediatrician. Very rarely do vaccinations result in serious side effects like allergic reactions or seizures. But, if the child experiences any such symptoms, it is crucial to inform the doctor immediately.
- Repercussions of vaccinations: Also, if the child does not have sufficient vitality to mount an elimination reaction, or should the elimination reaction (fever, swelling, skin rash) be suppressed with drugs, then the cause of the reaction will be retained within the body's tissues. It is this retention, which in susceptible infants, can trigger or at least contribute to the development of illnesses such as juvenile diabetes, asthma, neurological disorders, leukaemia, and even cot deaths. However, these are all extreme cases.
Most vaccinations for children are safe and do not bring about all the aforementioned side effects. When making a choice of any vaccination, parents should make an informed decision by weighing all pros and cons immunization for children. After all, the side effects of vaccines for children are far less severe when compared to the symptoms of the diseases they prevent.