I hear different things on social media and in my doctor’s office. Do vaccines work?
Vaccines are injection or oral medicines that prevent diseases. The current childhood vaccine schedule covers 15 diseases that can cause breathing problems, ear infections, meningitis (infection of the fluid around the brain), hospitalization, cancer and even death.
Vaccines were developed for these diseases because they used to cause serious and deadly infections in kids. Strong and wide spread immunization programs have nearly eliminated many very serious or hard to treat diseases like polio and smallpox.
However, some rare diseases resurface in the US when immunization rates fall below 90-95 percent. The 2010 whooping cough outbreak in babies in California and measles cases linked to Disneyland in 2015 are perfect examples.
My kids hate getting poked; can I make it any easier?
Studies show getting several vaccines at one time work just as well as spreading them out. So follow the schedule from the CDC to save time through fewer doctor visits.
For younger children pack a favorite toy, blanket or book your child usually uses for comfort. Anxiety they feel or see in you will make the pain worse, so be brave and calm yourself and choose your words to be supportive. Avoid words that increase anxiety like shot, pinch or hurt and instead choose vaccine or medicine and phrases like bother and comfort.
For older children be honest that the “vaccine will be uncomfortable, but not bother them very long”, remind them these medicines keep them healthy, and don’t use the doctor or immunization as a threat or punishment. You can also use a brave older sibling for support and encouragement. Distraction also works for all age groups, so try a quite activity, singing a song, or reading a book.
If you or your child get a vaccine out in town, get a record and share it with your primary care manager to make sure it gets added to their record. We don’t want your child to get duplicate immunizations or appear to not meet immunization requirements for schools or daycares.
It seems like my kids get more pokes than I did. Are there new vaccines in the line up?
Vaccines have been used around the world for over 1000 years and new vaccines are always being developed. The most recent additions to the vaccine schedule are chicken pox and hepatitis A in the mid 1990’s and meningococcal for 11-18 year olds and HPV series in late 2000’s.
Before vaccinations, chicken pox caused over 10,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths each year from serious infections like meningitis. The two shot Hepatitis A series has reduced hepatitis, a serious liver infection, by 75 percent. HPV infections cause genital warts as well as cervical, rectal and oral cancers and the vaccine is for preteen boys and girls all the way up to early 20’s.
I got all my childhood vaccines, am I done?
Some vaccines loose strength over time and need boosters, like tetanus that needs a repeat every 10 years. A booster vaccine refreshes your immune response to a disease, and this is different from the flu shot that you need every year because the virus changes every year. Ask your PCM if you are due for any boosters.
Patients 60 or older get the shingles vaccine to protect them from the rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles can cause severe pain, itching and numbness and last for weeks, months or even years. Almost 1 in 3 people without the vaccine will get shingles in their lifetime and the risk increases with age.
There are also times when we need vaccines that aren’t in the normal schedule. Pregnant women for instance need a TDaP during late pregnancy to protect their newborn until they are old enough for their own vaccines. Also, some diseases that are rare in the United States are common elsewhere in the world, so if you are planning any travel abroad ask if you need any new or different immunizations.
For reliable information about immunizations, visit vaccineinformation.org or download the “Healthy Children” or “Vaccines on the Go” apps for both apple and android.