vaccination

I’m a pediatrician. Here’s what I want you to know about vaccines.

By Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician

dr-katherine-williamson
Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Proper vaccination is important for all people, but especially infants and babies. When children follow the recommended immunization schedule outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they are better protected against potentially life-threatening diseases.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your CHOC pediatrician’s office is a safe, socially distant environment to keep your child and family safe while still delivering high quality preventive care.

As a pediatrician, I get a lot of questions about baby vaccination and vaccines for children. Here are the most common questions I get about vaccines – and why maintaining your child’s immunization schedule is more important than ever.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are one of the most important things we can do to help protect our children’s health. Vaccines and proper handwashing, more so than all other interventions, have proven to be the most safe and effective ways to prevent disease.

What is the proper vaccine schedule?

The current immunization schedule outlined by the AAP and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has been researched and proven to be the most effective and safest way for children to be vaccinated against potentially fatal diseases. It’s important to know that no alternative schedule has been shown to be as safe and effective.

Is it better to do multiple vaccines at one time or space them out?

The safest way to keep your child safe from vaccine-preventable diseases is to get all their vaccines on time. There is no advantage to spacing them out, and instead the longer you wait, you increase the risk of them catching one of the preventable diseases before you protect them.

The amount of antigen (protein) in each vaccine is so tiny that your immune system can process multiple vaccines at one time and build an antibody “army” to protect your child for each of those potentially fatal diseases. In fact, the amount of antigen (protein) in each vaccine is 100,000 times less than if your child has a common cold, so there’s no concern about overwhelming their immune system when they get their vaccines.

Can I delay my child’s vaccines during COVID-19?

Getting vaccinated on time is important because even though we have the threat of COVID-19 to contend with, all the diseases that we can prevent easily with vaccines are still a threat. These diseases — such as whooping cough and measles — are ready to emerge at any time that we don’t have the majority of our kids vaccinated.

When global travel begins to pick back up again, the risk for the emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases is going to be very high if we don’t keep our kids protected against these fatal diseases. While we are waiting for a COVID19 vaccine to stop the pandemic, it is up to us to keep our kids safe and prevent any future epidemics by using the tools we already have to prevent disease.

Do I really need a flu shot every year?

Yes. Now more than ever, it is important that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an influenza vaccine this fall. As many experts are expecting an increase of COVID-19 cases in the fall, an important step to protect our families is to make sure they are vaccinated for influenza in addition to their routine vaccines. While the influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it may help children if they are exposed to the new virus and may be at higher risk of developing pneumonia or other complications if their bodies are also fighting influenza.

Influenza causes a higher number of death and illness over any other disease annually in the U.S., and your best chance of preventing influenza is the flu vaccine. Symptoms of influenza include high fevers, chills, muscle aches, and respiratory symptoms that can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. Children under 2 years and adults over 60 years of age are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill if they are exposed to influenza.

The CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. You should be vaccinated as soon as the influenza vaccine becomes available. Although flu season peaks between December and February, it can start as early as October and last through May.

What can I do to make my child more comfortable while receiving a vaccination?

Studies have shown that preparing your child for vaccinations should ideally include three components: explaining what will happen, how it will feel, and strategies for coping with any related stress or discomfort. Here’s more tips on how to make shots less stressful.

This article was updated on May 18, 2020.

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