Getting an immunization is never fun, but those few, quick seconds of discomfort are the best ways to protect your body from some truly devastating diseases. From the mumps and measles to polio and smallpox, vaccines are proven to lower, and in some cases eradicate, the instances of these diseases.
However in recent years, some parents are choosing to forgo vaccinations due to worries over side effect and long-term complications. Dr. Judit Chavarria, a pediatrician at Sanford Worthington, assures parents that while it is 100 percent their decision whether to vaccinate, the risks associated with immunizations are very minimal.
“Like with any shot, the patient may feel some pain or soreness in the area where the injection was given,” says Dr. Chavarria. “There are a few instances of fever, but beyond that, more serious issues rarely occur.”
How vaccines work
The risks associated with an immunization are so low due to the manner in which they are produced. The Food and Drug Administration tests new vaccines for 10 years before they are granted a license. The testing is thorough to determine if they are safe and effective for children.
During public health emergencies, the FDA may approve a vaccine for emergency use authorization like the COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccines are designed to create an immune response in the body. When weakened, partial or dead portions of the disease are put into the body, antibodies are created to match that specific virus and fight off the infection. Your body will remember this and when the real virus tries to invade, your body is prepared.
“Many vaccinations need booster shots to make them the most effective,” Dr. Chavarria says. “Just one dose typically isn’t enough to produce the amount of antibodies needed to develop the best immune response. Depending on the vaccine, you might need one or two as a child and then one later as an adult for optimal immunity.”
However, there is one shot that all people should receive annually. The flu vaccine changes from year to year to combat the strains of influenza scientists expect to be circulating. The flu shot is safe for most people from infants 6 months and older all the way up to the elderly.
But I heard …
There have been a number of rumors circulating that inoculating your child may lead to an autism diagnosis. This theory was concocted from a flawed study published in the late ‘90s. Its claims were quickly disproven by countless other, more factual studies that study millions of children without finding any link between the use of vaccines and autism.
Parents also tend to believe that since many diseases that vaccines are used for are rare, their child is in no danger. But the disease became rare for a reason and not getting an immunization could quickly produce an outbreak.
“With the help of vaccines, we have significantly diminished a number of diseases in the U.S.,” Dr. Chavarria says. “They are rare, but they are still there. Just look at the outbreak at a major American theme park. Hundreds of people contracted the highly contagious measles virus because many weren’t vaccinated.”
In this instance, many of those who became ill chose not to be vaccinated. However, some individuals were unable to receive an immunization due to age or a compromised immune system.
“Not vaccinating your child not only puts them at risk but everyone else they come into contact with,” Dr. Chavarria says. “I just really want to encourage parents to discuss any fears they may have about vaccines with their pediatrician so they can make an informed decision about their child’s health care.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the common vaccinations all healthy children should receive, what they protect against and how often they should be administered:
- Hepatitis B (Hep B): between 1 and 2 months, and between 6 and 18 months
- Rotavirus (RV): 2 months, 4 months and 6 months
- Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP): protects against whooping cough; 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, between 4 and 6 years old, followed by a booster every 10 years
- Influenza B (Hib): 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and between 12 and 15 months
- Common strains of influenza (Flu): annually starting at 6 months old
- Pneumococcus (PCV): 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and between 12 and 15 months
- Polio (IPV): 2 months, 4 months, between 6 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): between 12 and 15 months, and between 4 and 6 years old
- Chickenpox (Varicella): between 12 and 15 months, and between 4 and 6 years old
- Hepatitis A (Hep A): two-dose series beginning at 12 months, and a second dose given again 6 months later
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): two-dose series beginning at age 11-12. May require three doses depending on age at initial vaccination.
- Meningococcal disease (MCV4): between 11 and 12 years, and at 16 years
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