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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Immunizing Children Is Safe

Immunizing Children Is Safe

Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Wed., April 15, 2009
By Erika Jenssen

Recently, an unvaccinated Bay Area man returned from a European vacation infected with the measles. He exposed more than 70 people to the disease, including his own children who had also not been vaccinated.

Amazingly, no one suffered serious complications, such as pneumonia, seizures or brain damage.

Before the measles vaccine in 1963, there were hundreds of thousands of cases of measles each year in the United States, and many deaths. By 2000, measles had become so rare that health officials said it had been successfully removed from the United States.

Thanks to vaccines, mumps and whooping cough also became rare.

But these successes have resulted in fewer parents being concerned about these childhood illnesses, and more concerned about the possible, but unproven, side effects of vaccines. So, these diseases are once again becoming problems.

When there is an outbreak of a preventable infectious disease in our community, such as measles or whooping cough, we often hear parents' reasons for not vaccinating their children: "I'm worried about autism," "Natural immunity is better" and "There are too many shots at too young an age."

Vaccines and autism

Parents worry that vaccines or their preservatives may cause autism. Autism is a serious disorder, however, medical research consistently shows that vaccines do not cause autism.

In fact, the only doctor who claimed to make the connection between vaccines and autism was discredited after an investigation found that he had altered data for his study.

Additionally, a federal court reviewed the evidence in February and determined that no connection exists between vaccines and autism.

"Natural immunity is better"

In some cases, natural immunity (from letting the child get sick with the disease) may last longer and be more protective than getting vaccinated. However, natural immunity from getting the disease carries the risks of serious complications or death.

A vaccine — which contains tiny fragments of the disease — triggers your own immune system to protect you, and it is safer for your child and the people around you.

"There are too many shots"

The visit to the doctors' office for vaccines is not fun, and it can be heartbreaking to see your child in pain. However, there is good reason to give so many vaccines to those so young: they are often the most vulnerable to those diseases and are the ones most in need of protection.

Spacing out the vaccines, and delaying immunizations, leaves the young ones vulnerable to becoming sick when they are especially in need of protection.

Are there side effects?

Like many medicines, vaccines have few and mostly mild side effects, such as a sore arm or a slight fever. Serious side effects are rare, and almost never life-threatening.

If a child experiences an allergic reaction to a vaccine, there are medicines to moderate symptoms, and the child will likely stop receiving that vaccine in the future.

Healthier communities

Getting vaccines is safe. Getting one of these diseases is dangerous to your children and the community. To hear more, visit

To see a schedule for childhood immunizations or to find out about free childhood immunization clinics that will be held in May, visit

National Infant Immunization Week starts April 25. Immunize your children.

Jenssen is the immunization coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services.

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