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American Academy of Pediatrics
Recommended Schedule of Immunization and Well Child Visits
FAQ About Childhood Vaccines
How can parents sort out conflicting information about vaccines?
In a world where information is at your fingertips, parents are often faced with lots of “scientific” information, whether it’s from social media, tv, magazines, etc, and often, this information conflicts with information provided by our healthcare professionals. A lot of this information is not given by individuals who are specialized in immunology, epidemiology, microbiology and statistics that help detach good studies from the bad ones. Committees of these experts are composed of scientists, clinicians and other caregivers who are as passionately devoted to our children’s health as they are to their own children’s health. They serve the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/vaccines
), the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org
), the American Academy of Family Physicians (aafp.org
), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (acog.org
), and the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (nfid.org
), among other groups. These organizations provide excellent information to parents and healthcare professionals through their websites. Their task is to determine whether scientific studies are carefully performed, published in reputable journals and, most importantly, reproducible. Information that fails to meet these standards is viewed as unreliable.
When it comes to issues of vaccine safety, these groups have served us well. They were the first to figure out that intestinal blockage was a rare consequence of the first rotavirus vaccine, and the vaccine was quickly discontinued. And, they recommended a change from the oral polio vaccine, which was a rare cause of paralysis, to the polio shot when it was clear that the risks of the oral polio vaccine outweighed its benefits. These groups have also investigated possible relationships between vaccines and asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, SIDS and autism. No studies have reliably established a causal link between vaccines and these diseases — if they did, the questioned vaccines would be withdrawn from use.
Are vaccines still necessary?
Although several of the diseases that vaccines prevent have been dramatically reduced or eliminated, vaccines are still necessary:
- To prevent common infections. Some diseases are so common that a choice not to get a vaccine is a choice to get infected. For example, choosing not to get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine is a choice to risk a serious and occasionally fatal infection.
- To prevent infections that could easily re-emerge. Some diseases can easily re-emerge with relatively small decreases in immunization rates (for example, measles, mumps and Haemophilus influenzae type b, or Hib). We have seen this with measles and mumps. Unvaccinated children are more likely to be infected.
- To prevent infections that are common in other parts of the world. Although some diseases have been completely eliminated (polio) or virtually eliminated (diphtheria) from this country, they still occur commonly in other parts of the world. Children are still paralyzed by polio and sickened by diphtheria in other areas of the world. Because there is a high rate of international travel, outbreaks of these diseases are only a plane ride away.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes. All vaccines are fully tested before being approved for use by the FDA. Vaccines contain a dead or weakened form of the disease-causing virus or bacteria. These cause the body to make antibodies and other beneficial responses that protect the child from that disease.
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