What Every Parent Should Know About Immunizations
Watching your child get a shot isn't
easy. It's even harder if you have fears or concerns about the safety or necessity of the
Millions of parents immunize their kids each year without concern. Yet some parents have heard rumors that vaccines can cause serious health problems.
So, how can parents get the facts
about vaccine safety? Your child's healthcare provider is your first source of reliable
information. Healthcare providers are bound by law to give you written information on the
benefits and risks of each vaccine suggested for your child. Reading this material can help
you make a well-informed decision.
Another source of in-depth information on vaccine safety is the CDC.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes. All vaccines are fully tested
before being approved for use by the FDA. Vaccines contain a dead or weakened form of
the disease-causing virus or bacteria. These cause the body to make antibodies and other
beneficial responses that protect the child from that disease.
Diseases like polio and mumps are rare, so
why are vaccines needed?
Many of these diseases still thrive
in other parts of the world. Travelers can and do bring these viruses back to the U.S.
Without the protection of vaccines, these diseases could easily spread here again.
Don't vaccines cause harmful side effects, illness, and even death?
Some children have minor side
effects from getting a vaccine like a slight fever or swelling at the injection site.
The risk for death or serious side effects is so small that it is hard to document.
Claims that vaccines cause autism or other diseases have been carefully researched and
disproved. Rumors persist that an increase in autism in children is caused by
thimerosal. This is a preservative added to vaccines. But thimerosal was removed from
all vaccines in Sweden in 1995. And the frequency of autism has continued to increase
there. Thimerosal has also been nearly removed in the U.S., where autism rates also keep
increasing, as they have throughout the world. After a thorough review, in 2004 the
Institute of Medicine rejected the idea that vaccines had any relationship with
Won't giving babies multiple vaccines at 1 time overload their immune system?
Many studies have been done to
evaluate the safety of multiple vaccines. None has shown that multiple vaccines cause a
problem. Children are exposed to many foreign substances every day with no harmful
effects. Scientists say that the tiny amount of virus or bacteria in vaccines is not
enough to harm a child. What can be harmful, though, is delaying a child's vaccines
What is the link between vaccines
Recommendations were developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths in infants up to 12 months old. AAP says that making sure your child is fully immunized can help reduce the risk for SIDS. No evidence has been found linking vaccines as a cause of SIDS.
Keeping track of vaccines
Most of your child’s vaccines are
completed between birth and age 6. Many vaccines are given more than once, at different
ages, and in combinations. This means that you’ll need to keep a careful record of your
child's shots. Although your healthcare provider's office will also keep track, people
change healthcare providers and records get lost. The person ultimately responsible for
keeping track of your child's vaccines is you.
Ask your child's healthcare
provider for an immunization record form. Think about your child's record as you would a
birth certificate. Keep it with your other essential documents. You can also download an
easy-to-read immunization schedule and record form at the CDC
Most parents and healthcare
providers do a good job of keeping up with immunizations. Yet studies show that about
one-fourth of preschool children are missing at least 1 routine vaccine. Most states
will not let your child start school without a complete vaccine record. Sometimes a
vaccine is missed when a child is sick. No matter what the reason, it’s important to
make up missed immunizations.
If your child has missed an
immunization, you don't have to go back and start over for most vaccines. The previous
vaccines are still good. Your healthcare provider will just resume the vaccine
schedule. If, for any reason, your child gets additional doses of a vaccine, this is
also not a concern. But your child will still need any future doses according to the
Final tips on vaccines
Keep this information in mind to help your child’s immunizations go more smoothly:
Common side effects of
vaccines include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness, and fever.
Discuss these side effects with your healthcare provider and ask what symptoms
deserve an office call.
Ask your healthcare
provider's office if it participates in an immunization registry. This is a source
you can go to if your vaccine records get lost.
Ask your healthcare
provider's office if it has an immunization reminder or recall system. This type
of system will call to remind you when vaccines are due. It will also warn you if
an immunization has been missed.
Always bring your immunizations record with you to all of your child's office visits. Make sure the healthcare provider signs and dates every immunization.
Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have. They have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.