Parents are reading lots about vaccinations, some of it factual and some less so. Let me take my best shot at doing some myth-busting when it comes to separating vaccine fact from vaccine fiction.
Before I start, I do want to remind everyone of the key fact that vaccines help to prevent many serious infectious diseases and to save lives.
Yet many parents are concerned because they’ve heard that a child’s immune system will be weaker if they get vaccinated or get multiple vaccines at one visit. This is not true. Many studies show that the body’s immune system stays strong after a vaccine. It can also rev up to keep your child healthy if the germ we have vaccinated your child against invades their body.
In addition, being vaccinated to one disease does not weaken your child’s ability to respond to another disease. The sooner you can immunize to multiple diseases at once, the sooner and more effectively your child is protected from life-threatening infections.
Another myth is that a child will get the disease from a vaccine that is supposed to prevent that disease. If the vaccine is made with killed parts of the germ we are trying to protect your child from, but not the whole germ itself, then it is impossible for your child to get the disease.
If the vaccine is made from a weakened or mild live form of a virus, such as the chicken pox or measles vaccine, then it’s extremely rare to get the disease. If your child has an otherwise normal immune system and does get the disease, it will be a very mild form, much less severe than getting a full-blown case of measles or chicken pox.
Some parents feel they need not vaccinate their child since their child is healthy and other children are vaccinated in the community – and that is enough protection against a virus or disease. This is not true.
Every child who goes unvaccinated increases the chance that a life-threatening germ will be able to spread. In fact, this has happened over the past few years in communities around the country who have seen decreases in their vaccination rates and significant increases in outbreaks of whooping cough, measles, and mumps.
Hopefully pointed tips like these that provide the facts about vaccines will de-myth-tify you and improve your understanding of why vaccinations are one of the most important things you can do to keep your children healthy.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.