What Every Parent Should Know About Vaccines
Watching your child get a shot isn't easy. It's even harder if you have fears or concerns
about the safety of or need for the vaccine.
Millions of parents get their kids vaccinated 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 V-safe after vaccination
health checker from the CDC.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes, vaccines are safe. All vaccines are fully tested before being approved for use
by the FDA. Most 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 autism.
Won't giving babies multiple vaccines at the same 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 needlessly.
What is the link between vaccines and SIDS?
Recommendations were developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help
reduce the risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and other sleep-related deaths
in infants up to 12 months old. AAP says that making sure your child is fully vaccinated
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
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 website.
Most parents and healthcare providers do a good job of keeping up with vaccines. Yet
studies show that about one-fourth of preschool children are missing at least one
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 vaccines.
If your child has missed a vaccine dose, 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 recommended schedule.
Final tips on vaccines
Keep this information in mind to help your child’s vaccines 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 a vaccine dose 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 vaccine.
Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have. They have made
many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.