Despite the availability of vaccines that effectively protect children against diseases that can be killers, surveys repeatedly indicate that many Australian children are inadequately protected against these diseases.

The seven potentially devastating diseases against which all children can and should be properly immunized are: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, measles, mumps, and German measles (rubella).

There are two reasons why so many children go unprotected against these diseases. First, many parents believe that polio, diphtheria, and whooping cough no longer exist. Second, people don’t realize how dangerous these and the other four diseases are. Children die or are permanently disabled each year as a result of these preventable diseases. The statistics prove that children are in danger from these diseases, and without immunization your child is also at risk.

Doctors use two types of immunization:

Active (live) immunization is done by injecting a weakened or killed virus or bacterium into the body. This stimulates the body’s natural defense system. The body produces substances known as antibodies, carried in the bloodstream, which are tailor-made to fight the invading organisms. The antibodies remain in the body for years, sometimes a lifetime, to protect it against that particular disease.

Passive (dead) immunization involves injecting ready-made antibodies — usually extracted from the blood of animals that have been immunized for the purpose of producing antibodies to be used in passive immunization. Passive immunization is only temporary but serves to protect a person who may already be infected until the body has time to create its own antibodies.

The following sections explain how you can protect your child against these diseases.

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