Have questions about your child’s immunizations? Family Medicine Physician Dr. Bruce Woolman, with UCHealth Primary Care Clinic – Estes Park, has the answers.
I’ve heard on television and read articles that say vaccinations are dangerous. Are they?
All vaccines carry some risk, but research has shown no connection between vaccines and autism, SIDS and other major problems. The most common reaction is soreness at the injection site. More serious reactions occur so rarely that the benefits exceed the risks.
When should I vaccinate my newborn? Isn’t their immune system too immature for all those vaccinations?
Some vaccines, such as hepatitis B vaccine, are given at birth, before the infant leaves the hospital. It has been shown to be effective when given this way, though it does require boosters at one and six months, so we know that babies’ immune systems can respond right away. Babies do carry immunity from the mother, but that does decline gradually after birth. Breastfeeding can impart protection for as long as the baby breastfeeds, at least for those things the mother is immune to. Flu shots are not recommended for babies under six months of age.
Are there certain vaccinations that those caring for a newborn should get, and why?
Hopefully all the basic immunizations are up-to-date in any caretaker. The tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years, and it would certainly be advisable to get the combination Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis, aka, whooping cough) to protect the infant from transmission of whooping cough from the caretaker. Whooping cough is usually no big deal in adults but can be deadly for babies.
Is it dangerous to give kids too many vaccines at the same time?
Multiple vaccines are commonly given to babies as part of the routine vaccination protocols. There is increased risk of the child showing signs of a fever as a reaction to multiple immunizations, but that is generally not dangerous and can be managed. The number of injections can be minimized by giving the combination vaccines that are available.
What about postponing some of the vaccines?
Vaccines should be given as soon as possible, according to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a panel of experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and others, and is coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The presence of an active fever is one of the few reasons to postpone an immunization. The postponed immunization should be given as soon as the fever resolves.
Are preservatives like thimerosol/mercury still used in vaccines?
There has been an effort to reduce the amount of preservatives in most vaccines, although you’d need to look at each one to see if that is indeed the case. The concern with preservatives is more for allergic reactions than for toxicity. And still, I feel the benefit outweighs the risk, even with the preservatives.
Isn’t it really unlikely that my child would get a disease like diphtheria or measles anyway?
Some of the diseases we immunize for have become uncommon because of immunizations. Except for smallpox, the diseases do still exist and children are still at risk. There is some protection that comes from “herd immunity” — that is, if most of a population is immunized for a given disease, the hopefully small percentage of the population that has not been immunized will gain benefit due to the unlikely occurrence of that disease in the “herd.” Unfortunately, there seems to be a greater and greater percentage of the population not getting immunized, which makes it more likely to be exposed, less likely to be protected.
It is certainly best in my mind to be a part of the population that is protected. In general, the potential risk of any of the immunizations we use is much less than the risks that occur if you get the disease we’re trying to prevent.
Are your own kids fully immunized?
My children are all adults now and having their own children. But as children, they all received the recommended vaccines at the appropriate times, and I encourage my children to keep up on my grandchildren’s immunizations as well.