If you have children, you’ve probably heard the word “milestone” more than you ever did before you had them. Milestones mark each week and trimester of pregnancy. Milestones mark your child’s growth and development. Walking, talking, eating independently – all milestones in their wonderful little lives. My daughter reached a major milestone on Saturday. She turned one! It was a great weekend of celebrating (both her birthday, AND my husband and I surviving the first year) and it still surprises me how quickly time can fly when you’re having fun.
Yesterday we loaded up in the car for one more milestone – Stella’s “one year well-visit” and 12 month immunizations at her pediatrician’s office. We found a seat in the waiting room, and she was wonderfully oblivious to the shots that were coming. She loved watching the fish swim around in the aquarium, and giggled at the other kids around us. As the nurse brought us into our room, she bounced on her daddy’s lap and played with the paper on the table like a happy girl…until the nurse came in with the needles. Our happy girl turned into one big crocodile tear. Her immunizations included Hepatitis A, MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), and Varicella (Chicken Pox), and before we knew it, they were over. Those nurses are amazingly quick! Although shots are never fun for kids, and Stella is probably a little sore today, I celebrated this milestone. We’d made it to our 12 month immunizations without contracting measles, mumps or chicken pox in the process! The nurse mentioned that she might have a slight fever today. A little fever is far better than the alternative, and she is finally protected. With outbreaks of several vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise – like measles and whooping cough – I was counting down the days until she could get vaccinated. Now I am able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Many of the diseases we vaccinate against are still common in other parts of the world. Measles, for example, is still a leading cause of death in children under 5 worldwide. In fact, 14 people die every hour from measles around the world. This is despite the fact that we have a vaccine that’s not only effective at preventing measles but also very, very safe.
A recent article published yesterday in the journal Pediatrics reviewed the available research on the safety of the MMR and other vaccines and found that side effects (if any) are mild, and severe adverse events are exceedingly rare. What is “rare”? Well, according to the CDC, the odds of having a severe reaction to the MMR is 1 in 1 million. To put that into perspective, Stella has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having a severe side effect. And with measles cropping up all over the country, the chance of her getting exposed to measles is greater than it has been in roughly 20 years. Knowing that, I have no doubt the benefits of getting her vaccinated far outweigh the risks.
As a parent, we track our child’s development week to week. Additionally, it is our responsibility to keep up with their immunization schedule, and vaccinate them on time. Vaccinating is one of the best birthday gifts I could give to my child. It gives her the opportunity to stay healthy and be protected from diseases that can easily be prevented.