How Vaccines Work
Vaccines prepare the body to fight disease. Each immunization contains either dead or weakened bacteria or viruses. After receiving the vaccine, the immune system then practices attacking the disease by making antibodies. In the future, if the virus or bacteria that cause the real disease enters the body, the person will be immune to the disease. Vaccines are frequently given by injection, but some are given by mouth or sprayed into the nose.
Immunizations protect millions of people from potentially deadly diseases and have saved thousands of lives.
Benefits & Risks
Vaccinations play a vital role in keeping kids healthy. Unfortunately, misinformation about vaccines could make some parents decide not to immunize their children, putting them and others at a greater risk for illness or even death. If you are concerned, your pediatrician can provide information about each vaccine so that you may educate yourself on the specific benefits and risks.
Some parents have opted not to have their children immunized because of misconceptions about vaccines. Several studies conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Institute of Medicine conclude that there is no link between vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Those who elect to not immunize their children also assume that everyone else is vaccinated and that their children are safe.
There’s no reliable way to know if everyone your child comes into contact with has been vaccinated, especially because so many people travel to and from other countries. The best way to protect your children is through immunization.
Some parents may be concerned about the amount of immunizations and their frequency. Taking multiple vaccines will not harm your baby or child. The amount of germs in vaccines is just a small percentage of the germs kids’ immune systems fight every day. In addition, the immunization schedule is founded on medical research and practice. You can discuss this schedule with your pediatrician, and they can advise you on modifying it.
A potential risk to vaccines is that kids can have a reaction.
The most common reactions to vaccines are minor and include:
- Redness and swelling where the shot was given
- Soreness at the site where the shot was given
In rare cases, immunizations can trigger seizures or severe allergic reactions. Keep in mind, the risk of serious reactions is small compared to the life-threatening diseases they prevent. If your child has a history of allergies to food or medication, or has had a problem with a vaccine previously, make sure to let the doctor know before any vaccines are given. Every year, millions of kids are safely vaccinated and very few experience significant side effects. Meanwhile, research continually improves the safety of immunizations.
Routinely Administered Vaccines for Children
Some of the most commonly administered vaccines are briefly discussed below:
Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids and Acellular Pertussis Adsorbed (DTaP) –Prevents the bacterial infections diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough).
Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) – Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria can cause life-threatening illnesses, such as bacterial meningitis, which can lead to brain damage and even death.
Hepatitis A Vaccine (HepA) – Prevents a liver disease caused by hepatitis A virus. Good personal hygiene and proper sanitation can also help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B Vaccine (HepB) – Prevents infection caused by hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can lead to liver inflammation, cancer, and death.
Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) –Prevents polio in infants as young as 6 weeks of age. Polio is a disease that can cause paralysis or death.
Human Papillomavirus Vaccine – Prevents anal cancer and associated precancerous lesions caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11, 16, and 18 in people ages 9 through 26 years. In females, it is approved for prevention of cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancer.
Influenza Vaccine – A yearly vaccine that prevents influenza, commonly called the “flu,” a contagious respiratory virus that can cause mild to severe illness.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine (MMR) – Prevents measles, mumps, and rubella in those 12 months of age and older.
Meningococcal Vaccine – Prevents certain types of meningitis, a life-threatening disease that infects the bloodstream and the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) –Prevents invasive disease caused by 13 different types of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae in infants, children and adolescents ages 6 weeks through 17 years.
Rotavirus Vaccine (RV) – Prevents gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus infection in infants as young as 6 weeks of age. Rotavirus disease is the leading cause of severe diarrhea and dehydration in infants worldwide.
Varicella Virus Vaccine – Prevents varicella (chickenpox) in children 12 months of age and older.
Minimizing Vaccine Side Effects
Sometimes children experience mild reactions from vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, a rash, or a fever. The following tips will help you identify and minimize mild side effects.
- Review any information your doctor gives you about the vaccine.
- Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness, and swelling at the injection site.
- Reduce any fever with a cool sponge bath. Talk to your doctor before giving any medication.
- Give your child lots of liquid. It’s normal for some children to eat less during the 24 hours after getting vaccines.
- If you notice something that concerns you, always call your doctor.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
America’s Best Children’s Hospitals
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