When you have a child, one of the first decisions you will make about their health will involve immunizations. Vaccinations are one of the most basic ways to protect your child’s health, but you may have questions about them before you make your decision.
Before we dig in, it’s important to acknowledge the amount of information regarding vaccinations available on the internet. Unfortunately, this information may be sensationalized, misleading or inaccurate. When educating yourself on anything, including vaccines, it is important to think critically about the source and evaluate the information to make sure it is based on proven facts rather than anecdotes or conjecture.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are excellent evidence-based resources for more in-depth information on the function, efficacy, and safety of vaccines, but here is a brief overview.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines are designed to strengthen the immune system so your body is not susceptible to the disease the vaccine guards against. Vaccines imitate an infection without actually causing illness. However, the body will respond to it by creating antibodies to fight the perceived infection. Those antibodies will stick around in your immune system, allowing your body to recognize and respond to the disease in the future.
Vaccines also work to prevent illness in communities, benefiting those who are too young to get vaccinated or who are immunosuppressed. This is a phenomenon known as herd immunity. In herd immunity, when enough people in a community are vaccinated, it helps stop the disease from spreading.
Are Vaccines Safe for Children?
The short answer to this question is a firm and confident “yes.” Vaccines are one of the safest ways to protect your child from a potentially debilitating or fatal illness. This is applicable to healthy children without complex illnesses and allergies, or who are immunosuppressed. Following the proper vaccine schedule can protect children and teens from 16 diseases that could severely harm the child if they are unvaccinated.
Vaccines are put through testing from a variety of agencies and authorities before they are approved and recommended for children. Each batch of a vaccine is tested before it is sent to healthcare providers and the facilities where they are created are frequently inspected.
It is important to point out that your child’s pediatrician only has the child’s best interest in mind when it comes to vaccinating them. The last thing they want to do is hurt a child or be cavalier with their health to serve some greater agenda. The recommended schedule is designed with purpose, and will not overwhelm your child’s immune system. For pediatricians and other doctors, vaccination is just part of a basic standard of care.
One of the biggest myths surrounding the safety of vaccines is the widespread theory that vaccines can lead to autism. This theory has been repeatedly disproven, as the doctor who published the original “study” falsified results and manufactured data.
What are the Side Effects?
The side effects of vaccines are typically very mild, with the most common effects being pain or swelling at the injection site. If you come across an anecdote about a child having a more serious reaction to a vaccine, know that if the anecdote is actually true, these reactions are extreme outliers. Millions of children safely receive vaccines every year.
The minuscule risks of healthy children reacting negatively to vaccines are greatly outweighed by the disease-prevention benefits vaccines provide. The risk of your child contracting a potentially serious illness is greater than the risks associated with vaccines. However, any adverse reactions to vaccines are closely monitored by the CDC through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Doctors must report the side effects of vaccines to VAERS and parents can also file reports in the system.
When Should I Vaccinate My Child?
Certain vaccines should be given at certain ages, and then booster doses should be given at an interval unique to the particular vaccine. Some vaccines should be given when the child is born and will be more frequent when they are younger. As your child ages, different vaccines will be recommended, and booster doses will be necessary. Though the frequency will decrease as they age, be sure they are current with vaccinations as it can lead not only to illness but also exclusion from school and other public places.
Your pediatrician will have a vaccine schedule for your child. It is important to follow this schedule so the proper immunities can be built up over time. You also want to decrease your child’s risk of getting sick, so sticking to the schedule and unnecessarily delaying immunization should be avoided. Pediatricians have worked to develop these schedules with your child’s health as the top priority, so you can trust that the schedule is safe.
Your child is not the only one who will benefit from vaccination. Adults should also keep up with their vaccinations and stay current for their own health and the health of those around them. Vaccinations adults should get include an annual flu shot, Tdap boosters, HPV, shingles, and meningococcal vaccines. The vaccines that are important for you can depend on your age and health history as well as your lifestyle.
At HealthPark Pediatrics, we believe in evidence-based care. That means we use clinical experience and reliable research to inform our care plans. With an emphasis on preventative care, we want to keep you educated on the best ways to keep your child healthy. This includes keeping up with the vaccination schedule. To make an appointment to talk about a comprehensive care plan for your child, call 919-896-7066, or request an appointment online.