Vaccinations: Get the Facts

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August 14, 2014


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Vaccines are the best way to prevent many diseases. Children begin receiving a schedule of immunizations early because some diseases are most likely to strike at a younger age.

And for many kids, middle school aged and younger, vaccinations are due before the start of the academic year.

All parents need to consult with their pediatrician about vaccinations, and possibly ask about the combinations of vaccines that are available to reduce the number of needle sticks your child will receive. Pediatricians and family physicians can also help allay any worries you may have about side effects.

“Every parent should take the appropriate time to ask their doctors about any concerns they may have about vaccines. It’s natural for parents to be curious and have concerns,” said Javier Hiriart, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group internist and pediatrician at West Kendall Baptist Hospital.  “The biggest concern is that not all that should or could be vaccinated receive their immunizations.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend vaccinations against 16 diseases, including influenza.

Children may receive up to 27 vaccines by the time they are 2 years old, and they may get up to six vaccines during one visit to the doctor.

School, Childcare Requirements
The CDC does not set immunization requirements for schools. Instead, each state and county decides which immunizations are required for your child’s enrollment and attendance at a child care facility or school.

Immunization requirements and allowable exemptions may vary by county. Here are the immunization websites for Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.

Miami-Dade County has required vaccines for Pre-K Entry, Childcare Entry and K-12. But your pediatrician is the best source for more specific information and scheduling of vaccinations.

Vaccine Safety
Overall, the CDC and the AAP say regular vaccinations of children have proven extremely successful over decades, despite some concerns that linger about vaccine safety. Some diseases that are prevented by vaccines, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, remain common in the U.S.

But other diseases are no longer common in this country because of vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC monitor the safety of immunization shots and possible side effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Vaccine Information Statements (VIS)
Every parent is required to be provided with a vaccine information statement (VIS) by their doctor after every vaccination. The VIS is a document produced by the CDC that provides details on the benefits and potential risks associated with the vaccine that’s being received.

A medical practice may also “produce permanent, laminated, office copies of each VIS, which may be read by recipients prior to vaccination,” according to the CDC.

Measles Making a Comeback
There have been outbreaks of measles in the United States since January 2014, the biggest surge since 2000. Measles is the eighth-leading cause of mortality worldwide, and the top vaccine-preventable cause of death among children.

The AAP speculates that some parents are not vaccinating their children intentionally because of safety concerns regarding the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. And that trend may have contributed to the renewal in measles cases, the AAP says.

“The truth is that today’s vaccines are the most effective and safest in history and have protected and saved millions of lives from vaccine – preventable diseases. However, some children are too young or too sick to receive vaccines. And some children do have side effects,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Hiriart echoes that sentiment, adding that the greater concern should be exercised with delaying immunizations.

“The risk of not vaccinating is higher than the risk of vaccinating,” said Dr. Hiriart. “There are obviously some side effects that can happen, such as minor fevers, redness or swelling to the injection area or some localized pain. But these are minor and happening infrequently. The benefits far outweigh the risks.”

 

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