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March 7, 2018 | Family Medicine
Why treat a disease when you can prevent it from developing in the first place? That’s the purpose of vaccines, which now help prevent many diseases that used to be common—like polio, measles, mumps, tetanus and others.
Unfortunately, several myths have circulated in the last few decades about the efficacy of vaccines for children and the risks of vaccines. But before addressing those myths, it’s important to understand why vaccines are important.
Vaccines provide an opportunity for the body to develop an immunity to and prevent certain diseases. Everyone is born with an immune system, which detects foreign invaders (called antigens) and produces proteins known as antibodies to fight them off.
This is a process that happens over time, however. The first time the immune system is exposed to a specific invader, it produces antibodies for protection—but usually not quick enough to prevent the sickness first. But once the immune system has produced an antibody, it always remembers it. This means if that same invader tries to enter the body again, even years later, the body will be able to produce those antibodies more quickly and fight it off before causing sickness.
Vaccines aim to accomplish this same process but without causing you to be sick first. Vaccines contain parts of the foreign invaders that lead to disease, but they are either killed or weakened to create the vaccine so that they don’t cause serious sickness. Instead, they simply stimulate the immune system to produce the proper antibodies for that illness. So, rather than exposing your child to polio so they can gain an immunity to it, you can vaccinate your child for the same protection.
Your doctor can offer further recommendations when it comes to vaccines and can set straight any other myths that might still be out there.
I practice the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. I also perform colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries we do, my practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although I enjoy all aspects of family medicine.
“Vaccine Myths Debunked.” PublicHealth.org. http://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccine-myths-debunked/
“Why Are Childhood Vaccines So Important?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/howvpd.htm
Maria Oneida, MD
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.