Some people have expressed concerns about vaccine safety. The fact is vaccines save lives and protect against the spread of disease. If you decide not to immunize, you’re not only putting your child at risk to catch a disease that is dangerous or deadly but also putting others in contact with your child at risk (see Protection for Everyone). Getting vaccinated is much better than getting the disease.
Indeed, some of the most devastating diseases that affect children have been greatly reduced or eradicated completely thanks to vaccination. Today we protect children and teens from 16 diseases that can have a terrible effect on their young victims if left unvaccinated.
Your pediatrician knows that you care about your child’s health and safety. That’s why you need to get all the scientific facts from a medical professional you can trust before making any decisions based on stories you may have seen or heard on TV, the Internet, or from other parents. Your pediatrician cares about your child too and wants you to know that…
- Vaccines work. They have kept children healthy and have saved millions of lives for more than 50 years. Most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease. And if a vaccinated child does get the disease, the symptoms are usually less serious than in a child who hasn’t been vaccinated. There may be mild side effects, like swelling where the shot was given, but they do not last long. And it is rare for side effects to be serious.
- Vaccines are safe. All vaccines must be tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will not let a vaccine be given unless it has been proven to be safe and to work well in children. The data get reviewed again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians before a vaccine is officially recommended to be given to children. Also, the FDA monitors where and how vaccines are made. The places where vaccines are made must be licensed. They are regularly inspected and each vaccine lot is safety-tested.
- Vaccines are necessary. Your pediatrician believes that your children should receive all recommended childhood vaccines. In the United States vaccines have protected children and continue to protect children from many diseases. However, in many parts of the world many vaccine-preventable diseases are still common. Since diseases may be brought into the United States by Americans who travel abroad or from people visiting areas with current disease outbreaks, it's important that your children are vaccinated.
- Vaccines are studied. To make sure the vaccine continues to be safe, the FDA and the CDC created the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). All doctors must report serious side effects of vaccines to VAERS so they can be studied. Parents can also file reports with VAERS. For more information about VAERS, visit www.vaers.hhs.gov or call the toll-free VAERS information line at 800/822-7967.
Just as important as the initial vaccinations are the booster shots. These are designed to continue immunity by building on the previous vaccines’ effectiveness. Unfortunately, some parents forget or skip the boosters, which undercut the effectiveness of a very important concept in vaccination: herd immunity. Herd immunity is the benefit everyone receives from a vaccinated population once immunization reaches a critical level. When enough people are vaccinated, everyone—including those who are too young or too sick to be immunized—receives some protection from the spread of diseases. However, relying on herd immunity to keep your child safe is risky. The more parents that follow this way of thinking, the fewer vaccinated children we will have, and the more likely a serious disease will return and infect all of those unvaccinated.
In the rare case that a child has serious side effects to a vaccine, parents can contact the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) at 800/338-2382 or www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation
. This federal program was created to help pay for the care of people who have been harmed.
For more information:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Food and Drug Administration
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Network for Immunization Information
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask your pediatrician.