Vaccine Benefits, Vaccine Risks: 10 Basic Questions Answered
7. What good do vaccines do?
"For every year's worth of vaccines we give out," says Schuchat, "over the life of the people receiving them, we prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million illnesses with direct medical savings of $9.9 billion dollars and total societal savings of $43 billion. So vaccines greatly reduce life-threatening illnesses and deaths and also save money.
"Vaccines provide direct protection to the person immunized. But they also protect the family and the community.
"For example, infants and toddlers have since the year 2000 received pneumococcal vaccines to protect against dangerous brain, blood, lung, ear, and sinus infections. By vaccinating young children, we dramatically reduced disease in children but also dramatically reduced disease in adults by preventing spread of illness from children to others. That is the case for many vaccines: We get population protection. We protect the individual, and also others.
"For flu, we recommend vaccinating people at high risk of complications, but also recommend vaccination for their contacts, for parents of young children or caretakers of the elderly, because they prevent the person from spreading the disease to the vulnerable person."
8. How can I maximize my child's protection and minimize his or her risk?
"Many vaccines are recommended for every child," says Schuchat. "It is important to talk to your health care provider, to make regular appointments, and to keep them -- and to ask if any vaccinations are due and if your child is up to date. It is important to immunize but also important to immunize on time because gaps can leave a child vulnerable. You can keep a record of which immunizations they have gotten, something that is good for you and for their schools to have."
"In terms of reducing a child's risk of infectious diseases, hand washing is really important. A lot of these diseases can be spread when germs get on our hands.
"It is very appropriate for parents to want information and to keep themselves informed. The vaccine information statements are a good source of information. Parents want to protect children and want good information. They must be comfortable raising questions with their doctor or nurse and getting the answers they are looking for. After all, the first job of parents is to protect their child's health."