Vaccines for Your Children. 9 Facts Parents Need To Know.
With so much misinformation on the internet and television about the dangers and risk of immunizations, it can be difficult for parents to separate the facts from the fears.
Pediatricians and other health care providers at Cook Children’s are concerned about the rise in preventable diseases, and even more concerned about the risks they pose to babies, kids, teens and adults.
Alice Phillips, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician, welcomes a conversation with her patient families. She said her job is to listen to concerned parents in a respectful way to try to provide facts and calm their worries.
“I try to answer them with what my experiences as a practitioner have been. I tell them not only what I’ve seen as a physician and explain all the science supporting immunization, but what I’ve done as a mom,” Dr. Phillips said. “My children are vaccinated. I believe in vaccines. Many times, a parent just needs kindness, compassion and assurance that they are making the right decision for their child. I truly want them to know that receiving a vaccine is the right decision for your child.”
So, to clear up some of the confusion, and to help parents make the best decisions for their kids, here are some basic facts about immunizations.
The doctors at Cook Children’s follow these guidelines for not only their patient parents, but in their own personal lives:
- Vaccines save lives
- Vaccines are safe
- Vaccines protect those that can’t be vaccinated
- We vaccinate our own kids
1. Vaccines Are Safe: Study after study has shown vaccines to be safe. Doctors cannot use a vaccine unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it as safe and effective. Even after the FDA approves a vaccine, it continues to be studied to ensure its safety.
2. Vaccines Are Effective: Vaccines have wiped out polio and smallpox in the United States. However, other preventable and deadly diseases still kill children every year. Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, has struck several communities in the state of Texas. It affects all ages. But infants are at the highest risk of hospitalization and even death. In 2009 there were more than 3,350 cases of whooping cough. Cases which could have been prevented by immunizing children, parents, grandparents and other family members who may expose even newborns unnecessarily.
3. Several Shots At One Time Is OK: It is OK. And there is a medical reason for this. Medicine is science, and as such it requires a lot of testing to understand what works and what doesn't. The number of shots and the combination of those shots has been determined by years of testing to assure the safest and most effective results.
Alternative schedules leave children at risk for serious illness and death. There is no advantage to delaying immunizations.
Many parents have found information that suggests they can make up their own schedule. This can be risky because an alternative schedule has not been tested. So there is a reason for the schedule of immunizations that doctors follow.
- Want more information about multiple vaccinations? Get the scoop on combination vaccination shots here
4. Following A Vaccination Schedule Is Important: Unless your doctor has a medical reason for it, delaying your child's vaccinations could be harmful to your child. Putting off vaccinations puts your child at greater risk for catching a preventable disease. If there are financial reasons why you may feel the need to postpone your child's immunization schedule, you can make an appointment at one of our Neighborhood Clinics, or you can locate vaccine clinics by contacting:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County
- Texas Department of Health Immunization Branch
- Dial 2-1-1 to find clinics in your area that offer free or low-cost immunizations
The physicians of Cook Children’s believe that vaccines are safe and effective. They are most effective when given according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
5. Some People Should Not Be Immunized: Yes, this is true. There are some uncommon circumstances when certain people should not be given vaccines such as those who are getting cancer chemotherapy or those with immune deficiencies. However, vaccine-preventable diseases can cause serious complications in people who have chronic illnesses, such as influenza in those who have asthma, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Most children who have minor illnesses can still get their recommended vaccines depending on which vaccine is needed and the type and severity of the illness. Talk with your health care provider and learn more about the vaccines recommended for your child's age, health status, and lifestyle, especially if you have a chronic or serious health condition.
Dr. Phillips hopes healthy people who can receive immunizations take that responsibility seriously. Community-wide protection depends upon a high percentage of the entire population receiving vaccines in order to protect children who are immune compromised and or can’t receive vaccines for health reasons.
People who cannot receive vaccines rely on the rest of the population for protection.
6. Some Children Do Experience Side Effects: It is true that some children can have side effects from a shot, just as they can when taking a medication. But it is important to know that most side effects are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or fever. Choosing not vaccinate your child has far greater risks. As an example: Chickenpox cause red, itchy bumps that can lead to skin infections and seizures. If your child has the chickenpox and exposes a child that is too young or too ill to be immunized, that child could wind up critically ill, hospitalized, or could even die due to complications. For a list of vaccines and their possible side effects, click here. We urge you to not only read them, but to use them to ask questions of your child's doctor, and to voice any fears you may have during your appointment.
7. Diseases Don't Just "Go Away": Some people argue that diseases go away on their own with the use of better hygiene and sanitation. While these factors to help to prevent the spread of the disease, the germs that cause the diseases do not go away. In fact, if you look at the history of any vaccine-preventable disease, you will see that the number of cases of disease starts to drop when a vaccine is approved for that disease. You can find more information in this article on vaccine effectiveness.
In 2006, Dr. Samuel Berkovic showed that children suspected of suffering brain damage from DTP vaccine suffered, instead, from Dravet’s syndrome, a genetic disorder. Until this discovery Dravet’s syndrome, a result of abnormal sodium transport in brain cells, was thought to be limited to adults. DTP protects children against diphtheria, which produces a toxic membrane in the throat. Diphtheria is still spread by returning travelers. DTP protects against tetanus, which causes muscles of chewing, breathing and moving to lock up as a result of a minor scratch in an unimmunized person. DTP protects against pertussis, or whooping cough, a critical illness in infants and young children who can suffer from a lack of oxygen and from air hunger during prolonged coughing spells. Because of the number of children not being immunized, pertussis is on the rise, becoming more widespread and thus, more deadly.
8. Preventable Diseases Are On The Rise: Sadly, this is true. In the last couple of years, Texas health officials have issued alerts for measles, whooping cough, and meningococcal disease. These are diseases that were very common prior to the discovery of effective vaccines and largely disappeared with immunization programs. But due to many people postponing or even avoiding immunizations for children altogether, they are on the rise again. And this alarms the health care community because these diseases can cause serious harm. The solution is for kids, teens and adults to protect themselves, and the community, by getting their scheduled immunizations.
Still not sure? Get the doctors point view. Cook Children's pediatricians speak out about why it's wise to immunize:
- Risks to other patients
- Why preventable diseases are on the rise
- 3 reasons to still give your kids whooping cough vaccine
- HPV vaccine – early evidence it's working
We're parents too. And as parents the physicians, nurses, clinical staff and caregivers of Cook Children's believe in immunizations and vaccinate our very own children. Just like you, we want to protect them from unnecessary harm.
9. Vaccines Don't Cause Autism: There is no scientific evidence or study that proves a direct link between vaccines and autism – or any other behavior disorder. The one study that claimed to have found a link has since been discredited. Unfortunately, the myth continues to spread.
Study after study has disproven the original article that suggested MMR vaccine caused autism. Large measles outbreaks occurred as vaccine rates dropped following the original publication. The medical journal, Lancet, subsequently retracted the article. MMR vaccine protects against measles which is highly contagious, causes severe pneumonia, and can cause a progressive form of encephalitis. MMR vaccine protects against mumps which can be associated with deafness. MMR vaccine prevents against rubella, or German measles, a cause of birth defects.
When parents don't vaccinate their children, they expose them—and other children they come into contact with—to harmful diseases. It also opens the door to the return of deadly diseases that vaccines have eliminated, such as polio.
Back to School Vaccines
Make sure that your child is up to date on vaccines. As your kids get older, your school might prevent them from enrolling in classes or other benefits, which might make it difficult to get their classes scheduled, etc. Vaccines are routinely scheduled at 4 years old (measles, whooping cough and polio among others), 11-12 (whooping cough and meningitis) and 16 (meningitis). At Cook Children's, we also recommend the HPV vaccination starting at age 11.
Click any of the links below to find where you can get your vaccines in the Tarrant County area:
- Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County
- Childhood Vaccine Assessment Tool (CDC)
- American Cancer Society and HPV
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Cook Children’s Vaccines and Immunizations
- Immunization Action Coalition
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine
- Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Vaccinate Your Family
- Voices for Vaccines
- Allied Vaccine Group
- Texas Department of State Health Services