As a family physician, one of my most important responsibilities is to discuss immunizations with parents. By providing accurate information about the risks and benefits of immunizations, you can make the best decision for you and your family.
Here are the facts I share with parents:
- Immunizations have been one of the most effective public health strategies ever, preventing suffering, disability and death for millions.
- Immunizing your family maximizes the health of our community. The more of us who are immunized, the better herd immunity we have to protect each other, including the elderly and infants too young to be immunized.
- Minor complications from immunizations do occur (fever, mild illness, injection site swelling) but major complications are extremely rare.
- The British study that “proved” autism was associated with the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine was retracted after it was discovered the researcher falsified data.
- Even though many of the diseases we immunize against aren’t common anymore, your child still should receive those immunizations to prevent outbreaks. Recent examples of problems from lower immunization rates include the measles outbreak in Vancouver, that cost the state over $1 million to control.
- In 2018-2019 there were 241 influenza-associated deaths in Washington state. Even in years where the flu vaccine isn’t as effective in preventing influenza, vaccinated people return to work more quickly and are less likely to visit the emergency room.
- There is no limit to the number of vaccines your child can receive at one time, but you can request to space them out if you’d prefer.
- Avoid routine Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) prior to immunization. There is evidence that it may reduce antibody production (immune response). Save those medicines in case your child develops fever or pain at the injection site.
- We immunize against things that cause acute illness, but we also vaccinate to prevent diseases that cause liver, cervical and oral cancers.
Hopefully this information will help as you review your child’s immunization schedule. I encourage you to ask your primary care provider about vaccine specifics or any concerns you might have. It is OK not to agree with your provider 100% of the time — we all need to focus on keeping the conversation open and respectful when we don’t see eye to eye. In the end, we will always agree on one point — that we all want to maximize your child’s health.