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 or need for the vaccine. So how can parents get the facts about vaccine safety? “Your child's physician is your first source of reliable information,” according to Arshia Hashmy MD, pediatrician at PIH Health. “Physicians can provide 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 Centers for Disease Control.
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 that causes the body to make antibodies and other beneficial responses that protect the child from that disease.
Can 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, a preservative added to vaccines. Thimerosal was removed from all vaccines in Sweden in 1995 but 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. In 2004, after a thorough review, 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 and none has shown that multiple vaccines cause a problem. 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?
No evidence has been found linking vaccines as a cause of 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.
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 doctor’s office will also keep track, people change healthcare providers and records get lost.
Ask your child's healthcare provider for an immunization record form and keep it with your other essential documents. You can also download an easy-to-read immunization schedule and record form at the CDC website.
Final tips on your child’s vaccines:
- Common side effects of vaccines include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness, and fever. Discuss these side effects with your child’s pediatrician and ask what symptoms deserve an office call.
- Ask the pediatrician’s office if it participates in an immunization registry. This is a source you can go to if your vaccine records get lost.
- Ask the pediatrician’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 child’s immunizations record with you to all the office visits. Make sure the pediatrician 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.
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