The Importance of Childhood Immunizations
Before medical science gave us vaccines, many children died from diseases such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. While those same infections still exist, vaccine protection means they are a relatively rare occurrence.
Even infections considered to be “mild,” like chicken pox, have an immunization protocol—and for good reason. “Of course, in many cases, children experience a very mild case of chicken pox. But, some cases can be complicated,” says Dr. Margarita Mankus, pediatrician with Riverside Medical Group. “Some children get blisters that can become infected, others can develop pneumonia. There’s no way to really tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be.”
Before the chicken pox vaccine, approximately 50 children died yearly from chicken pox and one in 500 were hospitalized. In Dr. Mankus’s opinion, the potential side effects of the vaccine—namely tenderness in the injection spot—far outweigh the risks.
Understanding the Immunization Schedule
The CDC website provides a recommended immunization schedule so parents are well-informed and know what to expect. Still, Dr. Mankus realizes keeping all the vaccinations straight can be confusing and overwhelming at times.
“I tell my patients all the time: ‘It’s never too late to vaccinate your children.’ I think parents sometimes feel frustrated or overwhelmed, and they might believe it’s been so long that it’s too late. My answer is always that it’s never too late to start or to catch up with vaccines, so definitely talk to your doctor about what your kids need,” advises Dr. Mankus.
She also encourages parents to visit the Healthy Children website (www.healthychildren.org), which is associated with the American Academy of Pediatrics and contains a library of information—not just on immunizations, but also on almost any topic a parent may want to learn about.
Why Starting Early Is Important
A common question Dr. Mankus fields is why children have to get immunizations at such a young age—particularly the hepatitis B vaccine that newborns receive before they even leave the hospital.
“The recommended schedule protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life before they come into contact with life-threatening diseases,” she explains. “They’re highly susceptible at a young age, and the consequences of these diseases can be very serious and even life-threatening for infants and young children.”
An additional reason to vaccinate and keep up with boosters is to protect individuals in the community who are unable to be vaccinated, such as children who are too young to be vaccinated or those who can’t receive certain vaccines for medical reasons. “There is a small portion of people who don’t respond to a particular vaccine, so it’s also important in terms of the health of the community at large,” adds Dr. Mankus.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
With the controversy that often accompanies the topic of vaccination, it’s understandable that parents have concerns about safety and efficacy. Dr. Mankus wants those parents to voice their concerns so she can have an open and honest conversation.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I like to have an ongoing conversation, and the important thing for me is that everybody has all the information about different vaccines.”
**To listen to an interview with Dr. Margarita Mankus, pediatrician with Riverside Medical Group, click here.