Immunizations are a part of childhood (and they should also be a part of adulthood). But many parents don’t know why they’re important — or how they work.
At Harbor Community Health Centers, our team provides vaccines as part of our regular pediatrics services, giving kids the tools they need to ward off serious illnesses. In this post, you’ll learn the basics of how vaccines work and why they’re crucial for your child’s health.
The amazing science of vaccines
Vaccines are designed to help your child (and you, too) avoid getting sick. Although your child is born with some “built-in” immunity (a pre-birthday gift from mom), it’s not enough to provide protection for all of the common illnesses of childhood.
Vaccines provide your child with additional immunity against various diseases, including contagious illnesses and serious, life-threatening diseases like measles and mumps.
Vaccines work with your child’s immune system, teaching it how to make and replicate germ-fighting agents called antibodies. Once the vaccine is injected, your child’s immune system creates a “recipe” that enables it to create the same antibodies in the future if that specific germ tries to invade your child’s body and cause infection.
Each vaccine contains a tiny amount of the germ that causes a specific disease, like the flu or chickenpox. The germ is either inactivated (dead) or fragmented — in any case, it cannot cause an infection. Instead, it helps “train” the immune system to recognize the germ, and teaches it to make those all-important antibodies.
It’s worth repeating: Vaccines don’t cause illnesses — they prevent them. After a vaccine, your child may develop a mild fever, but that’s a natural reaction that indicates your body is producing antibodies for future use, not a sign of illness or infection. Some children may be allergic to vaccines, so be sure to inform the doctor about any allergies your child has.
Lots of diseases, lots of vaccines
Many parents wonder why their child needs so many vaccines to stay healthy. The answer is simple: Diseases are caused by unique germs, which means your body needs antibodies to fight them off.
Germs are like locks, and antibodies are like keys. Just as your house and car locks require different keys to operate them, germs need specific antibody “keys” to “turn off” their ability to cause infection.
Different vaccines are designed to help your body produce specific antibodies, so your child will need a variety of vaccines to provide immunity against a wide array of illnesses. The good news: You don’t have to keep track of all the vaccines your child needs. The CDC maintains a list of recommended vaccines for kids and teens, so you can feel confident your child receives the immunizations they need to stay well.
Give your child a healthy head start
Making sure your child is immunized is one of the best ways to help your child stay healthy now and during adulthood, too. To find out what immunizations your child needs to stay healthy, call 310-547-0202 to book an appointment at our 425 South Pacific Avenue location today.