Thursday, April 26, 2018

Too Many Shots? Choose On-Time to Protect Your Child

Elizabeth Knapp, MD, Austin pediatrician
TMA Be Wise — Immunize Physician Advisory Panel member

As parents, we all want to make the choices that protect our children. Getting infants’ shots on time, based on the recommended schedule, is the best way to protect our babies from the risk of disease. As a pediatrician taking care of many precious babies over the years, I often am asked whether there are too many shots. Some parents wonder if we can safely protect against so many illnesses. I tell them it is true that the current vaccine schedule protects against a number of strains of different bacteria and viruses. Vaccinating on time is safe and gives our babies protection against horrible illnesses as early as possible.

As a mom, I know there are so many decisions to make. Between diapering and feeding decisions (breastfeeding vs. bottle) to thinking about our child’s future, the choices can be overwhelming. Luckily, the choice of what vaccines to give your child and when to give them has been tested and evaluated by many, many scientists. They have evaluated the way infants’ bodies respond to vaccines to make sure they will protect babies against illnesses that can be deadly.

To get lasting protection from the vaccines, infants need to receive multiple booster doses. These booster doses essentially boost the body’s memory, giving children protection from diseases for years to come. Because babies need repeated booster doses, completing the vaccinations on time is difficult when vaccines are spaced out. It means many more visits to your doctor’s office than the typical seven visits in the first 12 months of your baby’s life.

Parents ask me if infants really are able to handle so many vaccines at once. Some parents worry the vaccine components needed to protect against so many diseases are too much for babies’ little bodies. But our infants, from the moment they are born, are exposed to thousands of substances they are developing protection against. And their immune system is working hard from the time they are conceived to help them be ready. Vaccines help their little bodies accomplish this protection.

It’s true that babies receive more vaccines today than their parents did as children 20-40 years ago. But our newer vaccines contain less of the ingredients that trigger the body to develop more resistance, or immunity, to disease. So even though children today are getting more vaccinations, they actually are getting less vaccine elements to spur a stronger immune response. Our vaccine technology has improved over the years. Scientific studies of vaccination schedules have shown infants do not have weaknesses in their immune system after they get their vaccines. Tests also have analyzed babies’ response to receiving several vaccines together. Giving several shots together does not weaken their body’s response to any one particular vaccine.

Our vaccines are safe. Not giving them on schedule leaves babies vulnerable to sicknesses, such as brain infections and deadly cough illnesses. We all want to protect our babies; thank goodness we have that choice.

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