General Vax Questions

Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to protect your child’s health – not just today, but for many years to come.  Just because a disease is not common doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  The disease is still a threat, and often the only thing preventing it is the vaccine.  Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease have occurred both here and in other countries where children have not been immunized.

The most common risks include pain and redness at the site of injection and low-grade fevers. The vast majority of risks are not severe and resolve within one to two days.

Vaccine schedules in the U.S. are developed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This group of vaccine experts receives input from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. This schedule is published yearly in January.

No. More than a dozen studies have been published showing that autism is not associated with receiving vaccines. We have more than sufficient information to say that vaccines, including MMR, do not cause autism. Autism, now more commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a collection of several disorders that have common areas of abnormality. The main areas are social skills, communication skills and repetitive or obsessive traits. These abnormalities are typically noted between the first and second year of life. The MMR is also typically administered at this time. It is understandable that people noted the events occurring about the same time and concluded that the vaccine may be causing ASD. This belief was boosted by a study published by a British physician who said the MMR, and specifically the measles vaccine, caused autism. This study has been discredited, and the co-authors of the study subsequently published a formal retraction. While we still do not know exactly what does cause autism, it is likely caused by many factors, including genetics, abnormal brain growth, environmental triggers, and prematurity. Further studies to evaluate a link between vaccines and ASD is not beneficial and actually spend precious resources that could be redirected toward research critical to understanding and hopefully preventing ASD.

Many vaccines contain alum, which has been used in vaccines for over 75 years and has been found to be safe. Alum is an adjuvant. Adjuvants are used to help our bodies create a better immune response to vaccines, making the vaccines more effective. Without an adjuvant, children may need more shots or have lower immunity to the infections. We routinely ingest aluminum. For example, a quart of infant formula contains about the same amount of aluminum as the entire schedule of recommended pediatric vaccines.

Cases of measles, mumps and whooping cough have increased in the U.S., occurring overwhelmingly in unimmunized children. In most outbreaks of measles, it has been found that unimmunized children were 20 times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated children. So, parents choosing not to immunize their children are putting their children at risk of getting infections that are far more serious than the risks associated with the vaccines.

Airplane travel – and our ability to cross the globe in under a day – means anyone could be exposed to any infection before the contagious person even begins to show symptoms. Immunizations are needed to keep our children safe. To date, throughout the world, smallpox is the only infectious disease that has been eradicated. Vaccines can safeguard our children against many others.

Yes, some viral vaccines contain gelatin to stabilize vaccines so that they remain effective after manufacture. All gelatin contained in vaccines is porcine in origin. However, both leaders of the Jewish and Muslim faiths have declared that pork derived additives in medicines are permitted for those observant of these religions. Rabbi Abraham Adler, from the Kashrus and Medicines Information Service in the United Kingdom has advised that “according to Jewish laws, there is no problem with porcine or other animal derived ingredients in non-oral products. This includes vaccines, injections, suppositories, creams and ointments”. Scholars of the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences have also determined that the process by which the original pork product is transformed into gluten, alters it enough whereby it is permitted for observers of Muslim faith to receive vaccines.

No. While some vaccines against viruses (chickenpox, rubella and hepatitis A) use fetal cells grow the vaccine viruses; once the vaccine virus is grown, it is purified, so that no human cells or human genetic material (DNA) remain in the vaccine.

Thimerosal, which is used in some flu vaccine formulations, contains ethyl mercury. This is readily excreted from the body. The accumulative, toxic form of mercury found in certain kinds of fish, is methyl mercury.

While allergies to vaccines are rare, your doctor will screen for any reason not to give your child a vaccine.

This is often referred to as “herd immunity,” which is when a large percentage of the population is vaccinated and immune to disease and protects those who are not. In order for “herd immunity” to be effective in protecting those who cannot be vaccinated, including people being treated for cancers, people who have allergies to vaccine ingredients and some others, all those who can be vaccinated must be.

Many serious diseases are nearly eradicated thanks to vaccines. But, unless the disease is completely eliminated, it’s important to keep immunizing. For example, polio used to be a very deadly disease in the United States, crippling and killing tens of thousands of people in the 1940s and 1950s. The U.S. has been polio-free since 1979 thanks to a very effective vaccine. However, polio still exists in other countries and could be just a plane-ride away from the United States. This is why children in the United States still receive four doses of the polio vaccine.

Each year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) publishes immunization schedules for children, preteens and teens. These schedules summarize recommendations for routine vaccines for children age 18 years and younger. The recommended immunization schedules are approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

• A form of immunity that occurs when a certain level of the population within a community is vaccinated against certain infectious diseases to protect those who may not be fully immunized or cannot be fully immunized.n• Typically it takes 90% of the population within a community to reach herd immunity. This is for each and every vaccine. n• For example 90% of the community should be immunized against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR vaccine) for herd immunity to be reached.n• Herd immunity may also be called: Community Immunity, Social immunity, or Population immunity

• Herd/Community immunity works by breaking the chain of infection. If 90% of people are immune to an infection, it is hard for the organism to find a person to infect and thus the spread of infection is broken. n• Many vaccine preventable diseases are highly contagious – for example Measles is so contagious that 90% of people susceptible to the infection who come into contact with someone who has the disease will be infected.

Certain members of communities may be at an increased risk for many vaccine preventable diseases including the very young (too young to be fully immunized), the elderly (variety of reasons), or those whose immune system is too weak to offer protection (cancer patients receiving Chemo).

• While many vaccine preventable diseases are at very low levels in the United States, only smallpox has been eliminated. Vaccines are why we are seeing lowe levels of infections in the United States. There are numerous examples where populations in the US have stopped or decreased vaccination rates and the disease rate soon rises. As an example, in numerous cases of measles outbreaks, it has been shown that people not vaccinated against measles had a 20 time increased risk of infection compared to people who had been vaccinated In the U.S. there is a Recommended Vaccine Schedule published annually that provides the recommended list of vaccines for children and adults to receive. These diseases are not seen as often anymore because vaccines work!n• We live in a global society. Traveling/relocating around the world happens every day. Many of these vaccine preventable diseases still occur frequently around the world. It is important that those who can be vaccinated, be fully immunized and on time with their immunizations to protect themselves, their families, and their community. n• For example in 2017 there have been outbreaks of Measles and Polio in Africa, Measles and Mumps in the U.S., Polio and Measles in Pakistan, and Whooping Cough and Measles in Southeast Asia. Additionally in 2014 a Measles Outbreak in Ohio was caused by unvaccinated Amish travelers returning from the Philippines.

This means that when a person is infected with a germ (virus, bacteria or fungus), and the germ is present in your bodily fluids (saliva, mucus, stool, blood), there is potential to spread the illness to others (sneezing, coughing). Essentially, this is what makes a person with an infection (viral, bacterial, fungal) contagious.

The same idea as above and may occur with live weakened vaccines only. However, this type of shedding should not cause disease. Live weakened vaccines develop immunity without the risks of natural infection.

The potential for vaccine shedding only occurs with live weakened vaccines, and shedding may occur for a few days. The key is that the virus is weakened, so if shedding does occur it should not cause disease in the vaccinated person or anyone they have been in contact with.

There is risk for someone who has a weak immune system. The risk is very small when coming into contact with someone who had been vaccinated with a live weakened vaccine. The higher risk would be immunizing a person who is highly immunocompromised (very weak immune system). This is why recommendations for these persons typically include holding live vaccines until their immune system function improves.

There are concerns, many of which circulate on the Internet, linking some vaccines to multiple sclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other problems. To date, studies have failed to show any connection between immunizations and these conditions. The number of SIDS cases has actually fallen by more than 50% in recent years, whereas the number of vaccines administered yearly has continued to rise.

No. Immunizations and their ingredients are also studied extensively before licensure to ensure their safety. Certain ingredients are used to maintain the safety and sterility of a vaccines, and to increase the immune response. The below link to the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia breaks down a lot of this information. The ingredients in immunizations are included to create a stronger immunize response and make them work better. The ingredients do not cause diseases.

You protect your child from car accidents with seat belts, you protect them from drowning by teaching them to swim, and you can protect him or her from vaccine-preventable diseases with immunization. Vaccination against infectious diseases remains one of the most successful health interventions in the past 100 years. Countless lives have been saved as a result of vaccines. Despite that, more than 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Approximately 1.5 million of these deaths are in children less than five years old. In 2014, Ohio experienced the largest outbreaks of the measles in the U.S. in 20 years. The Ohio AAP and our member pediatricians understand that parents may have concerns about vaccinating their children and we support ongoing research and increased funding in that area.

No. Countless studies, including a study performed by the CDC in 2013, have found immunizations are a safe and effective way to prevent serious disease. The studies show there is NO link between autism and the MMR vaccine, thimerosal or multiple vaccines given at once. The below link to a brochure entitled “Understanding Thimerosal, Mercury, and Vaccine Safety” also includes the references to several studies on this topic for more information. The most common side effect of vaccines is soreness at the spot where the shot was given and low-grade fevers that are not harmful.

Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in Ohio prove these illnesses are still dangerous. In 2014, Ohio experienced outbreaks of the mumps and measles. Some patients suffering from these illnesses experienced very serious complications, including deafness and decreased fertility. Chickenpox (varicella) can cause serious complications and for some children, especially those who are immune compromised, it can be life threatening. Pregnant women who contract chickenpox may miscarry or the fetus may have abnormalities, such as skin scars or blindness. Each year in the U.S., rotavirus (a virus that causes diarrhea) leads to more than 200,000 emergency room visits, 70,000 hospitalizations and 20-60 deaths.

Alternative vaccine schedules are a bad idea. The current vaccination schedule is designed to protect infants against serious diseases as early as possible. Delaying or splitting up vaccinations leaves children, and the general public, unnecessarily vulnerable to serious diseases. Studies show a delayed schedule increases the risk the child will never get fully vaccinated, and therefore will not be fully protected against potentially dangerous diseases.

Vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. The overwhelming majority of vaccine-related side effects are mild and short-lived. The risk associated with these side effects is significantly lower than the risk of having severe illness or death from the disease the vaccine is designed to prevent. The most commonly reported side effects include: Redness, mild tenderness or bruising around the injection site; mild muscle pain; low-grade fever; mild irritability; nausea, and fatigue.

No. Multiple research studies have shown no link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and immunizations. In 2003 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed studies looking for possible relationships between SIDS and vaccines, concluding vaccines do not cause SIDS. In fact, SIDS deaths have been declining since 1994 when the American Academy of Pediatrics began the “Back to Sleep” campaign.

Babies have stronger immune systems than you might think, and they can handle far more germs than what they receive from vaccines. In fact, the amount of germs in vaccines is just a small percentage of the germs babies’ immune systems deal with every day. A lot of consideration and research went into creating the immunization schedule most doctors use, and it has consistently been proven safe and effective. The use of alternative schedules (spreading or “spacing out” vaccines so babies don’t receive so many shots at each check-up) is actually more likely to make a baby sick. Studies show that many babies on alternative immunization schedules never get all the vaccines they need. In addition, alternative schedules can be a real hassle. Spacing out vaccines over more doctor visits means that you’ll have to take your child to the doctor — and your child will have to deal with getting a shot — more often.

Few things in medicine work 100% of the time, but vaccines are one of the most effective weapons we have against disease — they work in 85% to 99% of cases. They greatly reduce your child’s risk of serious illness (particularly when more and more people use them) and give diseases fewer chances to take hold in a population. It can be difficult to watch kids get a shot, but the short-term pain is nothing compared with suffering through a potentially deadly bout of diphtheria, pertussis, or measles.

Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in young children. In 1999, a rotavirus vaccine was taken off the market because it was linked to an increased risk for intussusception, a type of bowel obstruction, in babies. Today, two different rotavirus vaccines called RotaTeq and Rotarix are available and very safe. Some studies suggest that they have a very small increased risk for intussusception, but that problem is rare. These vaccines have been shown to prevent the majority of cases of rotavirus infection and almost all of the severe cases. The vaccine is now on the regular immunization schedule to be given orally to infants as a liquid during standard vaccination visits — RotaTeq at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months, and Rotarix at ages 2 months and 4 months. Your doctor will have the most current information.

Yes! Immunizations are thoroughly studied before they are licensed for public use. Vaccines, before they are approved in the United States go through a rigorous process to assess their safety. The link the the brochure below describes the entire process, and also the continued evaluation of vaccines. Clinical trials are conducted to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of any single or combination vaccine before it can be brought to the market. Once a vaccine is introduced, there is a strong system in place to continuously monitor its safety. Vaccine safety is a shared responsibility among the federal government, state and local health departments, other partners and the public. To help meet this shared responsibility, government agencies and their partners have established several coordinated systems to monitor the safety of vaccines after they have been licensed for public use. These systems, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), are used together to help scientists continuously monitor issues.

Diseases that are rare or nonexistent in the United States, like measles and polio, still exist in other parts of the world. Doctors continue to vaccinate against them because it’s easy to come into contact with illnesses through travel — either when Americans travel abroad or when people who aren’t properly immunized come to the United States. If immunization rates fell, a disease introduced by someone visiting from another country or returning home from a foreign country could cause serious damage in an unprotected population. In 2008, an outbreak of measles sickened many in San Diego, California, after a family who had taken a European vacation returned home with their unvaccinated child, who had contracted measles. In 2011, low immunization rates contributed to the largest whooping cough epidemic California had seen in 50 years, when more than 9,000 people contracted the illness and 10 babies died.nIt’s only safe to stop vaccinations for a particular disease when that disease has been eradicated worldwide, as in the case of smallpox.

The FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research is the government agency responsible for regulating vaccines in the United States. Working in conjunction with the CDC and the NIH, they continuously research and monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness. New vaccines are licensed only after thorough laboratory studies and clinical trials, and safety monitoring continues even after a vaccine has been approved. There have been — and will continue to be — improvements (such as those that have already been made to the DTaP and polio vaccines, for example) that will minimize potential side effects and ensure the best possible safety standards.

Clearly, vaccines are one of the best tools we have to keep kids healthy, but the effectiveness of immunization programs depends on availability. You can receive inexpensive or free vaccines through many local public health clinics and community health centers, and campaigns to vaccinate kids often hold free vaccination days. A program called Vaccines for Children covers Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, Alaskan and Native American populations, and some underinsured kids for routine immunizations up to 18 years of age. The vaccines are provided by the government and administered in a doctor’s office. However, the doctor’s visit itself is not covered (unless the child has insurance, including Medicaid). But some public health clinics may cover both the visit and the immunizations.

Before considering vaccine information on the Internet, confirm that the information comes from a credible source and is updated on a regular basis. CDC’s vaccines and immunization web content is researched, written and approved by subject matter experts, including physicians, researchers, epidemiologists, and analysts. Content is based on peer-reviewed science. CDC leadership makes the final decision on the words, images and links to best serve the information needs of the public as well as healthcare providers, public health professionals, partners, educators, and researchers. Science and public health data are frequently updated. Most pages are reviewed yearly.

The media often covers stories about immunizations without understanding the science. Vaccines are studied extensively and are very safe. Just because an injury or issue occurs after receiving a vaccine, does not mean it was caused by the vaccine.

Vaccines are studied extensively and continuously and are very safe, while the diseases they prevent can cause serious injuries and even death. The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) founded in 1990 continuously monitors the safety of vaccines and conducts studies about rare and serious adverse events following immunization. Any new vaccines recommended for use in the Unites States are also monitored by the VSD for safety.

There are many ways to make immunizations less stressful for both the child and adult or caregiver! For small children, bring a favorite toy, book, or blanket to comfort them during the shots. For older children, be honest and explain shots can pinch or sting, but they will not hurt for long.

The immunization schedule is studied extensively and is the best defense against infections that may have serious complications including pneumonia, meningitis, cancer, and even death. The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Institute of Medicine have all studied and approved the current immunization schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization schedule, which recommends specific immunizations be given during specific time periods, has been developed to provide the best immune response and protection.

The recommended immunization schedule is designed to protect infants, children, preteens and teens from potentially life-threatening diseases. The schedule was created to provide the protection they need before they are likely to be exposed and to continue that protection over time.

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