Since our organization’s launch over 30 years ago, we at Immunize Colorado have worked to keep children safe and healthy by advocating for and partnering to provide routine vaccinations. Some parents may have hesitations about vaccines, amplified by misinformation online and a natural worry about doing what’s best for their child’s safety. So we’re here to set the record straight about routine immunization: what parents need to know about the safety, effectiveness, and necessity of childhood vaccinations.
Vaccination against infectious diseases benefits each child individually, and benefits every other child in our community, especially immunocompromised children who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons. Vaccination has been closely studied for decades and proven safe and effective by clinical trials and widespread usage, and side effects are exceedingly rare. All vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and required by Colorado law for school and child care entry have been tested extensively and continuously monitored for safety. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in false information about vaccines that claim they are unsafe and don’t work. You may have even heard some of these claims in your circles. These myths about vaccination can seem scary, and having concerns is normal; but it’s important to remember to turn to experts, like your child’s doctor, if you have questions or concerns about vaccination.
The truth is, vaccinations keep children from experiencing the dangerous effects of diseases like mumps, chickenpox, tetanus, polio, and many others. For example, before the polio vaccine was widely used, as many as 57,000 children became sick with the disease each year, and over 15,000 were partly or fully paralyzed, requiring assistance just to keep breathing. Now, cases of polio are rare in the U.S., precisely because of the effectiveness of the polio vaccine.
Unfortunately, the progress we’ve made across the world in eliminating terrible diseases like smallpox and polio is being put at risk. Childhood routine vaccinations have fallen by 60-80% in 2020-2021 across the vaccine schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 72% of kindergartens in Colorado saw a decrease in polio vaccination, with similar rates for chickenpox, MMR, and DTaP coverage. These drops put every child at risk of catching these extremely high-risk diseases and becoming severely ill; even children who are vaccinated are at a higher risk if there’s community spread of any of these diseases since no vaccine is 100% effective. The more children that are vaccinated in a given community, the safer every child is.
Vaccination is the single best decision we can make to protect our children’s health. Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to talk to your child’s doctor about getting them back up to date with their immunizations, especially as children return to school and begin to gather again. Regular immunizations should be prioritized for children under 2, who are the most at-risk for contracting dangerous diseases, and during any routine wellness visits throughout childhood and adolescence. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available for children 5-11 and teens 12-17, it’s an excellent opportunity to check with your child’s health care provider to make sure they’re up-to-date with all other recommended vaccines.