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Because childhood should be simple ...

Vaccine fact and fiction

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There's so much misinformation on the Internet and television about the dangers and risks of immunizations, that it can be hard for a parent to separate the facts from the fears.

Here at Cook Children's, we're very concerned about the rise in preventable diseases, and even more concerned about the risks they pose to babies, kids, teens and adults. So, to clear up some of the confusion, and to help you make wise decisions, here are the basic facts you need to know about immunizations.

Here at Cook Children's we follow the same guidelines that we recommend to our patients and their families.

Fact #1 - Vaccines don’t cause autism

There is no scientific evidence or study that proves a direct link between vaccines and autism – or any other behavior disorder. The one study that claimed to have found a link has since been discredited. Unfortunately, the myth continues to spread.

MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Study after study has disproven the original article that suggested MMR vaccine caused autism. Large measles outbreaks occurred as vaccine rates dropped following the original publication. The medical journal, Lancet, subsequently retracted the article. MMR vaccine protects against measles which is highly contagious, causes severe pneumonia, and can cause a progressive form of encephalitis. MMR vaccine protects against mumps which can be associated with deafness. MMR vaccine prevents against rubella, or German measles, a cause of birth defects.

When parents don’t vaccinate their children, they expose them—and other children they come into contact with—to harmful diseases. It also opens the door to the return of deadly diseases that vaccines have eliminated, such as polio.

Fact #2 - Vaccines are safe

Study after study has shown vaccines to be safe. Doctors cannot use a vaccine unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as approved it as safe and effective. Even after the FDA approves a vaccine, it continues to be studied to ensure its safety.

Fact #3 - Some children do experience side effects

It is true that some children can have side effects from a shot, just as they can when taking a medication. But it is important to know that most side effects are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or fever. Choosing not vaccinate your child has far greater risks. As an example: Chickenpox cause red, itchy bumps that can lead to skin infections and seizures. If your child has the chickenpox and exposes a child that is too young or too ill to be immunized, that child could wind up critically ill, hospitalized, or could even die due to complications. For a list of vaccines and their possible side effects, click here. We urge you to not only read them, but to use them to ask questions of your child's doctor, and to voice any fears you may have during your appointment.

Fact #4 - There are some people who should not be immunized

Yes, this is true. There are some uncommon circumstances when certain people should not be given vaccines such as those who are getting cancer chemotherapy or those with immune deficiencies. However, vaccine-preventable diseases can cause serious complications in people who have chronic illnesses, such as influenza in those who have asthma, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Most children who have minor illnesses can still get their recommended vaccines depending on which vaccine is needed and the type and severity of the illness. Talk with your health care provider and learn more about the vaccines recommended for your child's age, health status, and lifestyle, especially if you have a chronic or serious health condition.

Fact #5 - Vaccines are effective

Vaccines have wiped out polio and smallpox in the United States. However, other preventable and deadly diseases still kill children every year. Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, has struck several communities in the state of Texas. It affects all ages. But infants are at the highest risk of hospitalization and even death. In 2009 there were more than 3,350 cases of whooping cough. Cases which could have been prevented by immunizing children, parents, grandparents and other family members who may expose even newborns unnecessarily.

Fact #6 - Diseases don't just "go away"

Some people argue that diseases go away on their own with the use of better hygiene and sanitation. While these factors to help to prevent the spread of the disease, the germs that cause the diseases do not go away. In fact, if you look at the history of any vaccine-preventable disease, you will see that the number of cases of disease starts to drop when a vaccine is approved for that disease. You can find more information on this by clicking here.

DTP vaccine does not cause brain damage.

In 2006, Dr. Samuel Berkovic showed that children suspected of suffering brain damage from DTP vaccine suffered, instead, from Dravet’s syndrome, a genetic disorder. Until this discovery Dravet’s syndrome, a result of abnormal sodium transport in brain cells, was thought to be limited to adults. DTP protects children against diphtheria, which produces a toxic membrane in the throat. Diphtheria is still spread by returning travelers. DTP protects against tetanus, which causes muscles of chewing, breathing and moving to lock up as a result of a minor scratch in an unimmunized person. DTP protects against pertussis, or whooping cough, a critical illness in infants and young children who can suffer from a lack of oxygen and from air hunger during prolonged coughing spells. Because of the number of children not being immunized, pertussis is on the rise, becoming more widespread and thus, more deadly.

Fact #7 - Getting several shots at one time is okay

It is okay. And there is a medical reason for this. Medicine is science, and as such it requires a lot of testing to understand what works and what doesn’t. The number of shots and the combination of those shots has been determined by years of testing to assure the safest and most effective results.

Alternative schedules leave children at risk for serious illness and death. There is no advantage to delaying immunizations.

Many parents have found information that suggests they can make up their own schedule. This can be risky because a random schedule has not been tested. So there is a reason for the schedule of immunizations that doctors follow.

Fact #8 - Following the vaccination schedule is important

Unless your doctor has a medical reason for it, delaying your child’s vaccinations could be harmful to your child. Putting off vaccinations puts your child at greater risk for catching a preventable disease. If there are financial reasons why you may feel the need to postpone your child’s immunization schedule, you can make an appointment at one of our Neighborhood Clinics, or you can locate vaccine clinics by contacting:

The physicians of Cook Children’s believe that vaccines are safe and effective. They are most effective when given according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fact #9 - Preventable diseases are on the rise

Sadly, this is true. In the last couple of years, Texas health officials have issued alerts for measles, whooping cough, and meningococcal disease. These are diseases that were very common prior to the discovery of effective vaccines and largely disappeared with immunization programs. But due to many people postponing or even avoiding immunizations for children altogether, they are on the rise again. And this alarms the health care community because these diseases can cause serious harm. The solution is for kids, teens and adults to protect themselves, and the community, by getting their scheduled immunizations.

Still not sure? Get the doctors point view. Cook Children's pediatricians speak out about why it's wise to immunize:

We’re parents too. And as parents the physicians, nurses, clinical staff and caregivers of Cook Children’s believe in immunizations and vaccinate our very own children. Just like you, we want to protect them from unnecessary harm.

Fact #10 - Meningitis is preventable

Yes, there is a vaccine against meningitis, and most doctors make them available. The meningococcal disease vaccine is recommended for preteens between the ages of 11 and 12 with a booster at the age of 16, to provide protection at the age they are at the highest risk of contracting the disease.  College students are also at increased risk and are required to have the vaccine prior to arriving on campus. Meningitis is on the rise among adolescents and young adults and is easily transmittable. The disease comes on quickly and can become fatal within hours of contracting it.

You can learn more about the causes, dangers and prevention of meningitis here.

More information

If you would like more information on immunizations, we recommend the following links:

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