Your Children and Vaccines

There is no better way to protect children from infectious diseases than with vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), family physicians, and pediatricians around the country. For decades, children’s lives have been saved from deadly diseases by simply following a vaccine schedule.

However, in 1998, there was a dubious report published in The Lancet, a well-respected medical journal, about vaccines (most notably that the popular MMR vaccine had links to autism). The report has since been widely rejected by doctors everywhere, and proven to be based on falsified research. Yet many families still are hesitant to vaccinate their children and have questions about vaccines in general.

We hope the following will answer some of these questions and dispel any fears so that you’ll take steps to protect your children.

What’s the final word about the vaccine controversy?

After British doctor Andrew Wakefield published his shocking report that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, other researchers could not replicate his findings. It was also revealed that not only did Dr. Wakefield use false data in his research, but that he had conducted unnecessary procedures on children who already had autism. The Lancet retracted the report and Dr. Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in the UK. To date, there has never been any link seen between the MMR vaccine and autism in any credible medical research.

Why do vaccines start at such an early age?

The immune systems of infants and young children are not yet fully developed to effectively combat diseases. Vaccines early in life help strengthen immune systems against conditions that could threaten the health, or even life, of children.

Can vaccines make you sick?

The vaccines on the CDC-approved vaccine schedule cannot cause the illness that they protect against. While the flu vaccine can cause mild flu-like symptoms, it cannot actually give you the flu. In fact, these symptoms are a positive sign. They indicate that the vaccine is working to build up immunity. Side effects such as injection site swelling or a low-grade fever usually go away after a few days. They are a small price to pay for the protection that the vaccine provides.

Why do children need more than one dose of a vaccine?

Some vaccines need more than a single dose to build immunity against a disease. In addition, a vaccine’s protection can fade over time and must be built back up by several doses.

Do I need to have my child vaccinated if other children are getting vaccinated?

Yes. There is no way of knowing if everyone your child comes in contact with is up to date on vaccines. It is better to be safe than to risk exposure to someone who could be carrying a contagious disease. Also, in the event of an outbreak in your community, your child will be less likely to contract the disease if they have been vaccinated.

There are so many vaccinations. Can I stretch them over a longer period of time?

It’s true that there are many vaccines recommended for young children. However, the vaccine schedule is based on disease risks and vaccine strength at specific ages for children, and on how the vaccines may interact with each other. Extending the time between vaccines could put your child at greater risk for certain diseases. It is recommended that you stay as close as possible to the CDC’s schedule.

Conclusion

Despite doubts among some families in the wake of the now widely debunked report, you should feel completely safe about vaccines. You’re not only protecting your child but also helping to safeguard the health of other children in your area. If you have questions, talk to your family physician or pediatrician, who can provide the information you need to be confident about your child’s vaccines.


 

Charles Sow

Charles Sow

Specializes in Family Medicine

Learn more about Dr. Sow.