August is National Immunization Awareness Month as well as back-to-school time—two big reasons to make sure your child’s shots are up to date.
Immunizations have worked wonders for our collective health. In the 1940s and 50s, polio paralyzed or killed over half a million people worldwide each year. As of 2015, less than 100 people were affected, and most of those cases occurred in developing countries.
Though some people have raised questions about the side effects of vaccinations in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that the benefits far outweigh the risks. One of the most compelling reasons to vaccinate is, naturally, to prevent disease. Some may argue that many infectious diseases we commonly vaccinate for are close to eradication anyway. This is a risky argument, though. Consider the example of diseases like measles. While measles have largely been eliminated in the U.S., the disease is still common in some other countries. Those traveling between countries may spread the germs that cause measles, putting the unvaccinated at risk for the disease. In a world where people travel more frequently and farther than they have in the past, shared diseases are a sizeable threat.
The country of Japan serves as an important example of vigilance in vaccinating. In the 1970s, there was a movement by parents in that country to opt out of the whooping cough vaccination because the disease was nearly eliminated in that country. As a result, a resurgence occurred with well over 12,000 cases developing in several years.
Click here to see children’s immunization requirements. Visit your healthcare provider if your child is due for shots, and be sure to keep their shot records in a safe place. (The CDC does not keep a central bank of immunization records. Parents are responsible for tracking this information.) If you have lost shot records, you can check with past doctors or schools. States sometimes keep shot records as well. If you can’t find past records, your physician may be able to perform a blood test to detect what shots you have had. In some cases, they may need to revaccinate. While revaccinating isn’t ideal, it has been deemed safe.
Adults, note that kids aren’t the only ones who need shots. Some shots are required into adulthood. Click here to see an adult immunization schedule.