Today, children in the U.S. routinely get vaccines that protect them from more than a dozen diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, pneumonia, diphtheria and tetanus. In fact, thanks to years of immunization, most of these diseases are now at their lowest levels in history.
Vaccines are important because they give immunity (protection) against a disease or make a disease less severe if a child does get it. Without a vaccine, you must get a disease in order to become immune to the germ that causes it. But this can be extremely risky because certain diseases can be life-threatening.
Vaccines work best when they are given at specific ages (the measles vaccine, for example, isn't given until a child is at least one year old). Your child's pediatrician will know when to give which vaccines, so it's important to speak to him or her about your child's immunization schedule.
It's also important to know that, by law, children must receive certain immunizations before they can attend public school or participate in sports or other programs.
If you have questions or concerns about childhood immunizations, be sure to speak to your child's physician.