This summer, as you consider what vaccines your child will need for the next school year, keep this information in mind: Immunizations (or vaccines) are important. They prevent deadly childhood illnesses by increasing the body’s immunity to the disease. Every year, children die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Our pediatrician-in-chief, Dr. Jon McCullers (also an infectious disease specialist), tackles some of parents' most common concerns below.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes. The safety and effectiveness of all childhood vaccines are monitored continuously by a large group of scientists and public health officials. Hundreds of millions of doses are given to children in the United States annually. Vaccines are among the safest interventions used in medicine today.
Can vaccines cause illness?
No. Vaccines can have mild side effects, but do not cause illness. Some of these side effects might include redness or soreness at the injection site or low-grade fever. They should go away within a few days. Side effects sometimes occur because our immune systems respond to the vaccine in a similar manner that they might respond to the illness they are designed to prevent.
Vaccines are life-saving. Children die every year from preventable diseases. And many more children would die if we did not have national vaccine programs.
Should I preemptively give my child pain medicine or fever reducer when he receives a vaccine?
No. Giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) before or soon after immunizations is a practice that we no longer routinely recommend. Though commonly recommended in the past, recent research has changed our thoughts in this regard. Studies have shown that giving infants acetaminophen before immunizations does not reduce fever as well as we thought it did. It also may have an unintended consequence of causing the vaccine to be less effective. Fever is part of the normal immune response and shows that the vaccine is doing what it is supposed to do.
If your baby develops a low-grade fever with no other symptoms, then no action is needed. But if your baby develops a low-grade fever with fussiness or other symptoms, then first try measures such as swaddling, feeding, a pacifier or a cool compress. If that doesn’t work, then give a single dose of acetaminophen. If your baby develops a high fever greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit, then give acetaminophen for comfort. A cool compress applied to the thigh areas where vaccines were given is helpful to relieve discomfort.
When should my child get vaccinated?
Vaccines are generally given on set schedules. These schedules are set based on careful study of when they are most effective and at what ages children are exposed to the illnesses. It is important to follow your pediatrician’s instructions about the timing of vaccines. Delaying vaccines can put your children and those around them at risk for deadly diseases.
For general vaccine recommendations, view these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is it OK for my child to receive more than one vaccine at a time?
Your child’s immune system is easily capable of handling multiple vaccines at once. Spreading them out does not increase their effectiveness or reduce side effects.