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Giving us all a better shot

Our expert answers common questions about kids and vaccines.

Article Author: Guest Columnist

Article Date:

Doctor placing band-aid on child after receiving a vaccine

Our guest columnist is Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Wolfson Children's Hospital and vice-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics, District X.

The importance of getting your children and sometimes yourself vaccinated to protect little ones from vaccine-preventable diseases cannot be overemphasized.

Each person who is immunized in a community increases what is called "herd immunity," preventing the spread of disease by having fewer susceptible individuals. This breaks the chain of the infection cycle, providing a level of protection to those who are unable to be vaccinated due to age or an existing health condition.

I would like to address some questions I am often asked.

Are vaccines safe for kids?

Yes. They've been studied for their safety as well as their ability to prevent diseases that have the potential of making children very ill, possibly causing death in some cases.

Why vaccinate my child?

Because of vaccination, many diseases fortunately no longer exist in the general population. Smallpox has been eradicated as a direct result of vaccinating, and polio has been eliminated from 99% of the world. Other diseases such as mumps and chickenpox have decreased significantly, but we have to keep immunizing because if we don't, we lose that important level of immunity, and the disease can come back, as we've seen with measles.

Why do parents still choose not to get their children immunized?

Unfortunately, some misinformation has caused people to make false assumptions. A 1998 falsified study published in a British medical journal The Lancet suggested a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism, a study that has since been discredited and proven to be scientifically untrue. Many other studies since then have also validated the safety of MMR.

Over the years, there also have been incorrect parallels drawn between reactions to certain vaccines that happened to coincide with unrelated conditions a child already had. The pertussis vaccine was incorrectly associated with causing seizures and neurological problems in some children but it was later confirmed that those children had a form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

Is it OK to space out vaccines?

Spacing out and delaying vaccinations is very dangerous. Parents worry they might be overloading their babies' immune systems, but that's not true.

It's important to follow the standard vaccine schedule approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They've looked at which vaccines are appropriate and safe to give at what ages because those are the ages when infection is most likely to occur.

Any delay puts the child at increased risk. There are no alternative schedules; the AAP and CDC schedule is the standard, and all others are potentially dangerous. For information on what the recommended vaccination timetable is, you can go to the AAP's immunization webpage (linked below).

Where can you find free or low-cost vaccines?

Children who are on Medicaid are covered for recommended vaccines, and most insurance companies cover necessary immunizations. For those who do not have insurance, the local health department offers them through the Florida Vaccines for Children program.

Talk to a pediatrician if you have questions about vaccinations

Together, Baptist Health and Wolfson Children's Hospital provide all types of care for kids. Baptist Primary Care has physicians for the whole family. To find the right one for you, call 904.202.4YOU or fill out the appointment request form.

Find a provider near you

Resources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recommended Immunization Schedule, Florida Vaccines for Children Program

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