Little Kids Get So Many Shots …As a Parent I’m Concerned

“There are so many shots these days. As a pediatrician… what are your thoughts on spreading out the timing of the vaccines? What do you recommend?”

little girl getting an injectionFirst, allow me to make the argument for never saying the work “shots” when referring to immunizations or vaccines given to children. Coming from a parent, this sounds very much like throw your child under the bus now that he is in the Dr.’s office, and pretty much you have become part of the enemy. Coming from a Physician or a nurse or other office staff, this merely confirms the awful images already conjured up by your child. Let me suggest “immunization” or “medicine to keep you healthy”.

Next, let me deal with the perceptions out there that somehow these immunizations are actually “bad” for your child.

1. “That’s too many to give to a very young child/infant at one time”. Every vaccine currently given to your child has been exhaustively researched and evaluated from every direction. Many times, the vaccines used in this country have been used for some time in another country. Not only are these found to be effective to prevent disease (not completely, but enough to want to protect someone), but they have been given in various combinations with other vaccines and found to be as effective when given together as when given individually. The individual side effects have also been carefully evaluated and it has been found that side effects (usually very mild) are no more frequent or severe when several immunizations are given together.

It has also been shown, unfortunately usually by trial and error, that for the most part the diseases for which there are vaccines tend to cause a much worse problem in the very young and the very old. So if the parental decision is to postpone or divide these up in some random schedule they are actually doing a disservice to their child by not protecting him/her as early as possible. In addition to which, a random schedule makes it more unlikely that the entire batch of suggested vaccines will ever be completed. It can also lead to confusion in office records and neither is recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics and all significant groups doing research on these topics.

2. “My child’s immune system is too immature to bombard him/her with all these manmade chemicals at such an early age”. Bingo! It is just because an infant or child’s immune system is incomplete that we aim to protect him/her from what is potentially out in the community. These vaccines have also been studied as to the best timing (age) for each of them so as to afford the greatest protection with the fewest side effects.

3. “I’d rather have him/her get the disease and develop immunity the ‘natural’ way”. Oops!, you really didn’t say that, did you? To answer this I can only ask the question, at what price? These diseases are very dangerous and can be fatal in the very young. This is the chance a parent will be taking while awaiting an unwanted illness. There is also the concept of “herd immunity” in which, if a certain percentage of the population can be immunized, the entire population may be protected. Every child who is not immunized decreases the possibility of success with the theory of “herd immunity”.

4. “We have read that certain vaccines (MMR) can cause serious problems such as autism, etc. If you aren’t up to date with the latest information on this topic, you should be, and it is readily available on the internet. It so happens that the only information that has ever linked immunizations to autism was based on a single study involving very few patients and published in England by a physician who used very poor scientific methods more than a decade ago and has since lost his license. Furthermore, the journal that published this paper has since denounced this as false information and retracted the article.

5. Finally, since this is the Flu season please allow me to approach the topic as it relates to the previous information. There are two main types of Flu vaccines, the injectable, which is composed of totally killed or inactive Flu viral particles, and the active or live vaccine which can be given intranasally (spray into the nose). Flu vaccine is currently recommended for everyone above the age of 6 months. The injectable is incapable of transmitting the illness or similar symptoms to anyone receiving that vaccine and can be given to all ages. The live intranasal vaccine can only be used in children over the age of two and may cause mild cold- like symptoms for 1-2 days.

In conclusion: Try to follow the recommendations from the Academy of Pediatrics guidelines in which your Pediatrician is well versed and can explain them to you. These recommendations are well thought out and tested and you will be protecting your children as well as you can.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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