Why are immunizations important?
Immunizations have dramatically reduced many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a generation ago. Following the recommended immunization schedule to vaccinate your baby gives the best protection against 14 serious childhood diseases. It is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially deadly diseases.
What is the recommended Immunization Schedule?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an immunization schedule based on scientific evidence showing when each vaccine will work best. Pediatricians nationwide and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) support CDC’s schedule.
Does disease immunity come to a child automatically through breastfeeding?
No. Breastfeeding offers short-term and incomplete protection, and it doesn’t last very long. Babies need to develop their own immune response.
Why are there more vaccinations now?
Thirty years ago, vaccines protected children from seven diseases. Today we can protect them from 14 dangerous diseases. These diseases have always existed, but today scientific and medical technology has advanced to allow us to protect children from more diseases.
Babies are so tiny – can they handle multiple vaccines?
Yes, for two reasons:
• Your baby has an amazing immune system. Babies come into contact with millions of germs every day and handle them. (People average more than 150 species of bacteria on their hands; women have more than men!) So the small number of weakened or killed germ particles (called antigens) in vaccines are no problem. Meeting up with a dangerous disease germ is what can overpower a child.
• Scientific advances have allowed for purer, safer vaccines. The total number of bacterial and viral proteins (antigens) in the seven vaccines of the past was about 3,000. Compare that with just 150 antigens for all 14 of today’s more refined vaccines.
What about aluminum in vaccines?
Aluminum is used in very small amounts to actually boosts the body’s immune response. In the vaccines received by age six months, a baby receives about four milligrams of aluminum. Babies get more aluminum from breast milk – about 10 milligrams during the same six months (or up to 120 milligrams from soy formulas) than from all their shots combined.
Why is formaldehyde in vaccines? Isn’t it harmful?
Formaldehyde is used to keep some vaccines germ-free. It also is produced naturally in the human body as a part of normal functions of the body to produce energy and build the basic materials needed for important life processes. In the tiny amounts used in vaccines, it is not harmful. Studies have shown that a newborn weighing 6-8 pounds would have 50-70 times more formaldehyde in their body naturally than they would receive from a single dose of vaccine.
Is mercury/thimerosal in childhood vaccines?
Thimerosal-free vaccine is available for all routine childhood vaccines.
What about autism – are vaccines related to it?
No. Dozens of scientific studies have clearly disproved the idea that vaccines might be related to autism. Some parents first notice signs of autism at about the same time their children get vaccinated, but the two events are not related. Researchers are closing in on the causes of autism. Recent studies show that cell-level changes in autism are present in the second trimester of pregnancy, long before a child gets any vaccinations.
Are vaccines safe? Don’t some children have reactions?
The risk of a vaccine side effect is far less than the risk of complications from getting the disease. Vaccines are one of the most monitored and studied areas in medicine. There are new systems that allow us to follow millions of people after vaccines to show us the true rate of side effects. Vaccines may cause side effects in some children. These are usually minor, such as soreness, fussiness or a mild fever. They typically last only a day or two, and are treatable or don’t need treatment. Serious reactions are very rare (fewer than one in a million). If your child’s reactions worry you, call your doctor.
If a disease is rare, why vaccinate?
Not all vaccine-preventable diseases are rare. Some, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chicken pox, remain common in the U.S. Others, like diphtheria and polio, are no longer common here because of vaccines, but remain a concern in other parts of the world…which makes them only a plane ride away from being a concern here. If we stopped vaccinating, the few cases we have in the United States could very quickly multiply. For example:
• In 2010, almost 10,000 people in California became ill with pertussis. Babies had the most serious effects. Ten babies even died. In 2013, pertussis started to increase again.
• Before the vaccine was developed, chicken pox caused more than 12,000 hospitalizations, and 50-100 deaths, in the U.S. per year. Having the disease, instead of being vaccinated, creates a pathway for invasive bacteria that live on the skin’s surface, such as staph and strep, to enter the body and cause serious complications – even death.
• Measles is still common in many parts of the world, and spreads easily. It can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. In California in 2014, an unknown person visiting Disneyland started a widespread epidemic of measles across the U.S., eventually reaching more than 160 people infected and thousands exposed. Almost all of these measles infections were among unimmunized children and adults.
I hear a lot about delaying or skipping some vaccines. What do I need to know?
Some people claim that delaying or skipping certain vaccines is safer. However, not only will you end up bringing your child in for extra shot appointments if you spread the shots out, Actually, delaying or skipping shots simply leaves your child unprotected for longer against very serious diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and most doctors support the CDC’s immunization schedule. It is scientifically designed to provide the earliest and safest protection for your child.
What if my child is sick when it comes time for an immunization?
Talk with your child’s doctor. It usually is safe to go ahead with routine shots if a child has a cold, earache, mild fever or diarrhea. Likewise, vaccines are safe for children with certain allergies. Let the doctor know about your child’s allergy history or current cold symptoms.
What about a parent’s right to choose?
As a parent, you need to know the risks of skipping or delaying any vaccines. Starting in 2014, a California law requires any parent who wants a vaccine exemption for school or day care to talk to a medical professional first. So, talk to your doctor. Use trusted sources to make your decision. And remember, if your choice is to not immunize your child, it will affect other children too – those who can’t be immunized because they are getting chemo or other immunosuppressant therapies- count due to cancer or leukemia count on the rest of us to create a protective “circle” of immunity around them.