Childhood vaccines: Is your child fully protected?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: it's an old saying, but it's true. Prevention reduces your child's risks from health threats, ranging from tooth decay to bacterial infections. As a responsible parent, you know it's better to try and avoid problems in the first place than to fix them once they arise. After all, you want to do everything within your power to keep your child safe and healthy. For instance, you know that bad oral hygiene can lead to your child getting cavities. So you take preventative measures by teaching your child how properly brush and floss their teeth to avoid dental problems before they occur.

This prevention principle also applies to keeping your child safe from becoming seriously ill from infectious diseases. You take preventative measures to reduce your child's chances of getting seriously ill from harmful bacteria and viruses by teaching them good hygiene (proper hand-washing!) and by sticking to their scheduled immunization appointments. This form of prevention teaches your child's immune system to recognize and deal with these microscopic invaders before your child becomes exposed to a serious threat.

There are 14 infectious diseases that are largely preventable through vaccinations:

  1. pneumococcal disease
  2. diphtheria
  3. tetanus
  4. pertussis (whooping cough)
  5. polio
  6. Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  7. measles
  8. mumps
  9. rubella (German measles)
  10. varicella (chickenpox)
  11. hepatitis B
  12. meningococcal disease
  13. influenza (the flu)
  14. human papillomavirus infection (HPV)

Nearly all of the 14 can spread very easily from person to person, mainly through coughing and sneezing. For this reason, it is important to make sure that your children's vaccinations are up to date, especially before sending them to school. You know how children can be – sneezing without covering their mouths, picking their noses, hands in their mouths, forgetting to wash their hands – so you can very well imagine schools and daycares are hot spots for transferring bacteria and viruses among children. Even if you're sure that your children have learned well to be careful, you can't always foresee everything or control the behaviour of other children.

Most of the 14 vaccines require multiple immunizations at different times before your child becomes fully protected. The immunization schedule can get complicated, and that's why it is important to talk to your doctor about how to best protect your child against these 14 vaccine preventable diseases. Missing even one scheduled immunization could mean that your child is not fully protected.

It's important to know that vaccines are not intended to be used for treatment of active infection, and they do not protect against types of bacteria or viruses that are not included in the vaccine. Vaccines may not protect 100% of people who have the vaccine, and they may cause side effects. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Don't let your child be unprotected from harmful viruses and bacteria. It's not worth the risk. Stick to the immunization schedule. Remember, it's better to prevent than to fix, especially when dealing with something as potentially dangerous as vaccine-preventable disease.

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