What Does Going Unvaccinated Mean for Your Child – a Pediatric Pulmonologist’s Opinion

Doctor giving vaccine to a small boy with mother at home

The Covid-19 pandemic has once again ignited discussions on the effects of vaccines on children. While some parents may see the risk of infections as low and decide to skip the vaccine, other families, states, countries, or even schools may not agree. If you’re considering avoiding vaccinations, read on before making your decision.

It’s a Parent’s Choice, But There are Risks

Not vaccinating your child is a personal choice, but it can put them at risk. There are vaccine-preventable diseases that can be fatal while others can cause serious illnesses.

Measles and polio aren’t just unpleasant; they can be deadly. In fact, in 2019 there have been 1,274 measles outbreaks across the U.S. due largely in part to parents’ unwillingness (or inability) to vaccinate their children. About 1 to 3 of 1,000 children die from respiratory and neurological problems caused by measles.

Here are vaccine-preventable diseases to be aware of:


Measles is an acute viral respiratory infection caused by a virus detected in the nose and throat. Infected children frequently get a red and itchy rash that can spread throughout the body. If they cough, sneeze, or even speak, contagious droplets can spread into the air and remain there for roughly an hour, putting those nearby at risk of inhaling them.

Ear infections and diarrhea are the most common side effects of measles, however, there is also a chance for far more severe complications like pneumonia and encephalitis.


Poliomyelitis, sometimes known as polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Many people suffered paralysis from polio outbreaks prior to the development of the polio vaccine. Today, type 1 Poliovirus still exists around the world. Since polio cannot be cured, the best way to avoid it is by vaccination.

Even Healthy Children Can Get Seriously Sick

Since vaccine-preventable diseases remain prevalent in the United States and across the world, they pose a persistent threat to children. Even if your child stays at home a lot, they might still be exposed to adults who unwittingly carry illnesses.

In addition to not protecting your child from disease, being unvaccinated can also put other children at risk. Those who aren’t vaccinated can unknowingly pass viruses on to others.

There’s also the risk of contracting viruses like Covid. Based on officially recorded COVID-19 statistics, vaccinations helped prevent 144 million fatalities. 

A study showed that almost half (46%) of children hospitalized for Covid-19 were admitted to the ICU, with 16 (2%) ultimately succumbing to their illness.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a severe and life-threatening disorder that causes inflammation of certain body parts, was also present in 44% of the children.

Medical Treatments Will Require Extra Care

If your child is sick and needs to see a doctor, has to go to the ICU, or needs any medical treatment, you should notify the medical staff beforehand if they are not vaccinated, for their safety and for others. Maintain an up-to-date record of all their immunizations for your and their doctor’s reference. This will help in any emergencies as well as help doctors determine if additional measures need to be taken, such as quarantine or isolation from other children.

Traveling Will Require Additional Precaution

If you’re traveling abroad, it’s important to understand the disease risks in the country you are visiting. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there was a surge in measles, mumps, tetanus, TB, and other infections due to vaccination hesitancy in 2019. They’ve also reported that since 2019, certain countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti, and Venezuela, have dropped their regular immunizations by 14%.

Before going on your trip, you might want to consider talking with your child’s doctor or pediatric pulmonologist about any vaccinations they can recommend based on where you’ll be traveling. You may also need to be careful with unfamiliar food or water from other places as it can also make them sick.


Vaccines are an essential part of keeping your child safe from serious infections and are strongly recommended by doctors. If you choose not to immunize your child, consult a pediatric pulmonologist about ways to protect your family and anyone who may be involved with your child.