hiv testingAs the new school year creeps up on us, many parents are dedicating the month of August to their children and back to school. Aside from shopping for trendy clothes and school supplies, back to school serves as an important time to consider getting your children vaccinated, if you haven’t already done so. Although vaccinations are a very controversial subject to some, there are lots of good, and in some cases lifesaving, reasons to vaccinate your child.

Immunizations are important because they prevent children from contracting serious illnesses such as measles, mumps, and rubella that may result in brain damage, loss of sight and/or limbs, or even death. Considering immunizations for your child, or even checking to see if everything is up to date, is important at the beginning of the school year as many school systems require children to be vaccinated in an effort to prevent the spread of diseases. Refusing to vaccinate could spark an outbreak, similar to the December 2014 measles outbreak that occurred in Southern California, in which 40 people contracted the virus while visiting Disneyland. Alarmingly, the outbreak spread to over half a dozen states before it was declared over in April, 2015. These highly contagious diseases spread like wildlife, and the results could be truly grueling for a young child- think high fever for a number of days followed by an incubation period in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Aside from the recent measles outbreak, many parents believe that since outbreaks of many of the diseases requiring vaccinations have not been heard about in a long time, they do not exist and are no longer a reason to worry. However, it is important to realize that although many diseases are rare in the United States, they may still be prevalent in foreign countries and could be brought in through international travel. Do not rely on other parents to vaccinate their kids, and don’t assume that since everyone else is vaccinated, there’s no reason to vaccinate your own children. Not only does this allow your child to become vulnerable to diseases, but non-vaccinated children could spread diseases to children that are too young to obtain vaccinations.

For those who have already decided to vaccinate their children, your job is not yet finished- think Titer tests. Titers are blood tests that check your immune status to vaccinations or diseases you may have received in the past. If your titer results are positive, it means that you have adequate immunity to a particular infections disease thus eliminating the need to get a particular vaccination. In fact, many schools have Titer tests listed as a requirement for admission and seek adequate proof of immunity.

Even though parents are entitled to their own beliefs on parenting, immunizations go beyond the safety of your own children. Diseases are unpredictable and the effects on children can be paralyzing. It is important to keep immunizing until the disease is eliminated, as in the case of smallpox. Vaccinations diminish a child’s vulnerability to a crippling sickness and allow them to be active participants in school and group activities. Be a part of the effort to wipe out diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and more, and visit your pediatrician to vaccinate your children.