Monday, August 28, 2017

Healthy Habits: Ask a Nurse Practitioner - Immunizations

August is National Immunization Month, and with the start of school right around the corner, Dr. Joyce Knestrick, President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, answered some questions about immunization.
How does immunization work?
Immunization, or vaccination, works by introducing small, harmless amounts of a virus into the bloodstream, allowing your body to learn the virus and develop natural defenses against it without getting sick. Think of it as a training program for your body’s immune system.
Some diseases, including measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination early in life. Others, like the seasonal flu, should be administered every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be vaccinated as soon as possible, with some shots scheduled before a child is 15 months old.
Why should I vaccinate my child?
Immunizations prevent 2.5 million deaths every year, and the measles vaccine alone is estimated to have saved over 17.1 million since 2000. With the resurgence of formerly eliminated diseases including measles and whooping cough, it’s critical to protect your children.
Moreover, vaccines protect people who can’t get immunized through something called herd immunity. With immunization, you can protect your child (and others) from 14 potentially deadly or life-altering diseases before your child is two years old. Lastly, depending on where you live, your child may not be able to attend school without vaccinations.
Are there any risks to vaccinating my child?
First and foremost, the incidence of serious side effects from childhood vaccinations is extremely rare. There are potential side effects such as redness, swelling, and soreness at the point of injection. But these are insignificant compared to the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases. Just ask anyone of your parents’ or grandparents’ generation about polio, which was eradicated in the U.S. thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine.
How much does it cost?
Vaccine costs vary depending on what shot is being given. However, most insurance plans will cover the cost of vaccination, and the cost of getting sick from a preventable disease is far greater than the cost of protecting yourself from it. In 2015 alone, vaccine-preventable diseases cost the U.S. $9 billion, with unvaccinated individuals responsible for 80 percent of that cost.
Is it too late if I haven’t already vaccinated my child?

No. There is no cut-off time for vaccines, as immunization is a process that continues through life (think of flu shots or tetanus boosters). If your child has not received some or all of their immunizations, your NP can easily get them caught up. Plus, pre-teens and teenagers get their own series of vaccines against things like meningitis and HPV.

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