The World Health Organization is warning that children worldwide will die as countries stop or cut back their immunization efforts while we are facing the coronavirus pandemic. Pediatricians in the United States are reporting a drop in immunizations ranging from 24% to 62% since the pandemic began in late February.
Immunizations, also known as vaccinations or “shots,” help protect you from getting an infectious disease. When you get vaccinated, you help protect others as well. Vaccines are very safe because they must pass strict tests before they’re available to the public. Immunization is one of the greatest public health success stories of modern times. More than 20 diseases can be prevented by vaccines.
How much do you really know about vaccines? Want to learn more to ensure your family is fully protected? Take the quiz below.
Question 1: Why do we need immunizations?
- Immunizations prevent 2 to 3 million deaths every year. For children born in the last 20 years, they will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths.
- More than 1.5 million people worldwide die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Vaccines are 85% to 98% effective in stopping disease in a vaccinated person.
- Without these life-preserving vaccines, children are at risk of becoming very ill, suffering from pain, becoming disabled and even dying.
- Thanks to better vaccines, many diseases do not occur or spread as much as they used to, but the bacteria and viruses that are responsible for these diseases remain in our environment.
Question 2: Do all diseases have a safe vaccine to prevent them?
- All diseases have a vaccine except for COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus.
- These diseases have a safe and effective vaccine: chicken pox (varicella), diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatis B, Hib (type B flu), HPV, influenza (flu), measles, meningitis, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus, rubella (German measles) and tetanus (lockjaw).
- No vaccine is 100% effective.
- Children may be at relatively low risk from severe disease and death from COVID-19 but can be at high risk from other diseases during the pandemic if they are not getting their regular vaccines.
Question 3: Can vaccines cause illness?
- Some vaccines can cause a temporary headache, fatigue or loss of appetite. Rarely, a child might experience a severe allergic reaction or a neurological side effect, such as a seizure. Although these rare side effects are a concern, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small, due to rigorous testing.
- Some vaccines can cause a sore arm muscle for a few days where the shot was injected.
- All the above.
Question 4: What costs more, the disease or the vaccine?
- Vaccines are very expensive to develop.
- Diseases don’t have many costs except time away from school or work.
- The disease costs more because it is much easier and more cost-effective to prevent a disease than treat it. If the patient survives, the disease can cause disability or long-term medical costs. The pain and suffering that can be avoided with a vaccine is immeasurable.
- The disease is more expensive because treating it can include multiple doctor visits, hospital visits, medications and other costs.
Question 5: Do children still need vaccines? So many of these diseases are gone.
- Yes, vaccines are needed because those diseases are still around.
- When children don’t get their vaccinations, more outbreaks will occur, including life-threatening diseases like measles and polio.
- Many of these diseases are at their lowest level in decades but that’s because about 86% of all children worldwide have been vaccinated.
- Children may have a lower risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19, compared to their elderly grandparents. However, children can be at high risk from other diseases during this time if they don’t receive their recommended vaccines.
Question 6: What vaccines are important for my family?
- The recommended vaccines for children 0-6 years of age include those for diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, flu, pneumonia, polio, measles-mumps-rubella, chickenpox, meningitis and HPV. Proof of immunization is required for enrollment in school or day care in Arkansas. Check with your children’s health care provider about their vaccine schedule.
- Depending on age, adults should have vaccines for chickenpox, flu, diphtheria- pertussis-tetanus, hepatitis A and B, HPV, measles-mumps-rubella, meningitis, pneumonia and shingles.
- If your children have missed some scheduled vaccines, they can make them up. Check with their doctor.
- All the above.
Question 7: How do vaccines work?
- A vaccine prevents a disease from attacking you or it can reduce the severity of the disease.
- When you get a vaccine, you get a tiny fragment of the disease. This triggers your body’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight the disease should you ever encounter the actual disease. Some vaccines induce other processes in the body that enhance immunity to disease.
- Some vaccines require updates or “boosters” to maintain your immunity from the disease. Others only need one dose. Others, like the annual flu shot are modified each year to prevent the most common types of flu currently in circulation. That’s why you need a new flu shot every year. You also need a tetanus booster every 10 years to prevent lockjaw. Check with your doctor about any booster vaccines you may need.
- Once you become an adult, the only vaccine you need is to prevent flu.
Question 8: What is the alternative immunization schedule?
- Giving shots on different days instead of all at once.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there is no alternative immunizations schedule. The AAP adds, “Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease for a longer period of time … it does not make vaccinating safer. There is no alternative if you want the optimal protection for your child.”
- Providing creams or salves instead of an injection.
- Delaying vaccines until after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Question 9: Are there ways that shots can hurt less? I hate to see my kids dread going to the doctor for fear of another painful shot.
- Ask your health care provider for a prescription for a numbing cream like EMLA or vapocoolant spray. Using this before the shot gives some relief. More importantly, it can give the child a sense of control and boost their confidence that they can get through it.
- Tell your child the shots will help keep her from getting sick. Younger children can be distracted by holding them on your lap while the shot is given. Rock them afterwards to calm them. Never describe vaccines as punishment or use them as a threat.
- Ask the provider to not let a young child see them prepare the shot while you distract them with a joke, funny story or a song when the shot is injected. The “cough trick” has been used successfully for years. The fake cough distracts the child’s attention just as the needle is injected.
- If a mild fever or muscle soreness develops after the shot, ask your doctor about giving some acetaminophen (Tylenol) to make them more comfortable.
- All 4 answers are correct.
- 2, 3 and 4 are correct.
- 4 is correct.
- 1, 3 and 4 are correct.
- All 4 are correct.
- 4 is correct.
- 1, 2 and 3 are correct.
- 2 is correct.
- All 4 are correct
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