With the winter (and runny noses!) coming upon us quickly, and the flu shot again being recommended for your little ones from your pediatricians, I thought this was a good time to discuss vaccines. August was vaccine awareness month but in my mind, every month should be vaccine awareness month.
Pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend vaccines. Why? They protect our children from infections that can be very serious. We know this based on studies and scientific evidence. The science shows us that they are safe and effective in preventing disease.
Some of these diseases are so mild, why is there a need for the vaccine?
Many can be mild, but not all. We don’t see chicken pox like when many of us were children. Many cases are mild, but not all cases. The vaccine was actually developed to prevent the severe complications from this disease. Measles also is not a mild disease. With unvaccinated children, as you know, we have seen children develop measles. Also, not only does not vaccinating a child put that child at risk, it puts other children who are too young to get vaccines along with those that cannot be vaccinated for another medical reason at risk as well.
The flu vaccine can also be given as a nasal spray and not a shot?
Yes. The flu vaccine is recommended by the AAP to be given each year to children over the age of 6 months. It is the best way to protect children from the flu. It can prevent possible hospitalization and decrease the severity of the virus. In addition to the vaccine given by injection, it is also available in a nasal spray for healthy children over 2 years of age, and your doctor will discuss with you if your child is able to receive this and is an option. There is also a different schedule for children depending on the age of your child and if your child received the vaccine the prior year so be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
It may seem easy for doctors to recommend vaccines, but isn’t it hard to see children getting so many shots?
As a pediatrician, I discussed the benefits and reasons why vaccines are important. I understand the schedule of vaccines can look overwhelming. Before I was a parent, I discussed the benefits of vaccines to parents. I understood the concerns of parents when their child was getting a shot (s) in the office or hearing about the shots they should expect at the next visit-at least I thought I did. Now as a parent, I REALLY get it and understand. But, even knowing how important they are, I know firsthand, it doesn’t make it any easier to see your child get vaccines at the doctor visit. Even after giving many shots to children myself, I can’t look at my child getting a shot. I cried at every well visit my children had to date! The truth though, some kids don’t even cry and most children do better than their parents when at the office visit! I cried because I hated seeing my child in pain from the needle, not because of the vaccine. I know in the end they will be ok from that needle in the arm, and it is well worth their health and safety in the end. I’m doing what I can to prevent my children from preventative diseases, just as pediatricians do for their patients.
Is there anything parents can do to prepare for the vaccines or to make them more comfortable?
Yes! Your pediatrician will inform you on specific vaccines that will be given at each well visit, according to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. They should tell you what each vaccine is for, possible side effects, what to look for after the vaccination, and when to call the doctor if there is a problem after they are given. Your pediatrician may give you handouts or direct you to a website to learn about the vaccine as well. There are many vaccines, so being educated on what vaccine your child is receiving and why can alleviate any concerns you may have. Also, in case of a fever from the vaccine, your doctor will discuss medications and age appropriate dosages you can use. You should have continued discussions on vaccines with your pediatrician at each visit.
What about preparation for the children?
Some younger children and toddlers may be afraid of doctor visits (which is totally normal!) because they associate them with getting shots. Some preparation to limit the fear of the doctor can include “playing doctor” with doctor toy kits and using books to teach young children about what will happen at the visit.
Any last thoughts on this topic?
Be sure to discuss your child’s vaccine schedule with your pediatrician. If your child has any medical history or had any reaction in the past to vaccines, they will know the best vaccine schedule for your child. Your pediatrician is a great resource for any questions or concerns you may have with regards to vaccines and specifically with your child.