What and why
Childhood vaccines are the single most effective, most studied, and yes, safest form of preventive healthcare in our country today. They are vital to preventing potentially serious and even fatal diseases among children and adults alike. We don't have to look too far back in history or to other countries without access to certain vaccines to see the devastation that certain diseases can do. Think polio, measles and certain forms of meningitis.
Vaccines absolutely save lives.
Even within the confines of our own borders, we see what whooping cough can do to our youngest and most vulnerable. Babies, here in the U.S. have died from this vaccine preventable illness.
Over the years, the number of vaccine preventable illnesses has risen. Which yes, means more vaccines for our children — but also means we are protected against a wider range of illnesses. Illnesses which can translate to weeks of missed school/work, time spent in the hospital, chronic problems left from the disease, or worse yet, death.
Vaccines are important. This much is true.
Your child will receive one vaccine shortly after birth or prior to leaving the hospital (Hepatitis B) and then with each scheduled well visit at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. From there the next round of vaccines are due at 12, 15 and 18 months of age.
Then a little break until they will get what most parents and pediatricians call the kindergarten shots, which are typically received between 4-6 years old. A longer break, and then your adolescent is due for a few boosters and a couple of new vaccines at age 11— and at age 16 will need a meningitis booster. New to the most recent recommendations are a TdaP booster which includes protection against pertussis (whooping cough) for women with each pregnancy.
The flu vaccine is seasonal and is recommended for all children (and adults) 6 months of age and older. This schedule is updated yearly and extensively studied by the CDC, AAP, and IOM for both efficacy and safety. See the most recent vaccine schedule here.
These vaccines are extensively studied for safety and efficacy. Most recently, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released results of their study analyzing the safety of our current vaccine schedule. The good news? Safe. And it's worth mentioning that the IOM is independent of any perceived bias that may be seen as conflict of interest. Meaning, there is no funding from Big Pharma or the like.
Of course it's also worth mentioning, that like any medical intervention, whether it be antibiotics or a dose of Tylenol, risk is present. To be quite honest, I see more reactions to antibiotics than I do to vaccines from a clinical standpoint.
We know that the majority of children who receive the recommended vaccines on time show no untoward side effects. Some show local tenderness at the site of injection and some may have a low grade fever afterwards. However, autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, asthma, or other postulated autoimmune diseases have not been shown to be connected to vaccines. And yes, that has been studied.
Other more serious side effects such as anaphylaxis to a previous vaccine or febrile induced seizures (following a vaccine) are relatively rare, but should be discussed with your healthcare provider if there is a family history of such reactions. Click here for a list of common and rare side effects for each vaccine.
Bonus vaccine fact
While there are more vaccines today than when we were children, the good news is that the amount of antigens is actually less thanks to technological advances. This translates into fewer side effects, not more.
Dr. Mom's bottom line^Vaccines are important. They save lives and prevent serious communicable diseases. Be honest about your concerns with your child's pediatrician but please also know that we study the evidence and do sincerely have your child's best interest at heart.