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Widespread childhood immunization has been characterized as one of the most important achievements in healthcare in the United States. Use of immunizations has resulted in the reduction or elimination of many childhood diseases that were once common and sometimes associated with serious illness, birth defects or stillbirth due to infected mothers, and even death. The reduction in vaccine-preventable illness has also resulted in tremendous cost savings due to decreased need for medical treatment and lost work time by parents to care for ill children. School absenteeism is also greatly diminished by routine immunization. However; the use of immunizations has not necessarily eradicated the diseases they prevent, and the failure to maintain good immunization practices could result in the resurgence of those diseases.

Although the value of childhood immunizations has been well established, parents are sometimes reluctant to have their children immunized. Concerns exist regarding the potential for harm from some vaccines or their ingredients. Added ingredients in vaccines prevent bacterial contamination, prolong vaccine shelf-life and make them work more effectively.

Thimersol is a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines since the 1930s to prevent the growth of bacteria in multi-dose vials of vaccine. Fear regarding the association of autism with thimersol-containing vaccines has not been supported by numerous scientific studies. With the exception of tiny amounts in some influenza vaccines, thimersol has not been used in recommended childhood vaccines since 2001. Aluminum is used in some vaccines to make them more effective. The amount of aluminum in vaccines is minimal and, and has not been shown to cause adverse effects after 75 years of research. The other various ingredients in vaccines have all been extensively studied, and the amounts present are so small that they are safe for humans. Fear regarding the potential association of the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine with autism has also not been supported by numerous scientific studies.

The correct timing of vaccinations is very important in order to ensure immunity to disease. Many vaccinations require a series of doses to achieve the desired immune response, and some require periodic booster doses. Making sure that your children have received the appropriate/required immunizations before school starts can save you a lot of time and aggravation.

Immunizations are also important for adults, and the need for some vaccines, e.g., tetanus is life-long. Vaccines for influenza, pneumonia and shingles can help prevent serious or painful illnesses. Certain vaccines are necessary prior to international travel.

Useful internet links for information about vaccines, recommended immunization schedules and school requirements include:

Be FamilyWise and get your kids (and yourself) immunized!

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