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October 18, 2013

Vaccinations: A Key to Protecting Your Child

by Hansa Bhargava, MD


The other day I saw a sick 9-month-old baby in my clinic that came in with a high fever. After speaking with the parents, I was told that the child had not received any vaccinations. The parents had been concerned about the child’s immune system being “overloaded.” The child was completely unprotected against some of the most serious infections, including those that cause pneumonia, meningitis, hospitalizations, and even death.

Being a mother of two 7-year-olds as well as a pediatrician, I really understand the need to protect our children. Many of my own friends and family have worried about “overloading” the immune system or a vaccine causing autism. But the truth is, there is no medical evidence that the immune system can be “overwhelmed.” And the question of autism being caused by the MMR vaccine has been proven not to be true in study after study.

So what happens if you don’t vaccinate? And what can happen if your community doesn’t vaccinate? Unfortunately, we are seeing more outbreaks.  Take measles: There were only 60 cases per year until recently, but in 2011, more than 220 Americans got measles. This year, 159 people have already contracted measles, most of them because they were in contact with someone who had travelled internationally. Don’t forget, today we live in a very connected world. There is also the recent epidemic of whooping cough. In 2010, there were 9,210 youngsters infected with this in California. A recent study looking at this outbreak confirmed that a key factor was that large numbers of children who were intentionally unvaccinated helped spread the infection.

In my office that day, the 9-month-old had to undergo a lot of tests because he was not protected, and he was eventually admitted to the hospital. The child was given vaccinations a few days later.

Vaccinations are key protectors of our children’s health. Are your kids protected? How do you feel about your kids playing with kids who have not been vaccinated?

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