Natalie Herrera, PA, Cucamonga Valley Medical Group
By Natalie Herrera, PA
Vaccines are an integral part of childhood wellness that create lasting immunity for decades. This article provides basic information about why we vaccinate and which vaccines we recommend in early childhood, but does not cover additional vaccines recommended in adolescence.
Our offices highly encourage adhering to a vaccine schedule in early childhood to ensure that your children have the best protection against an array of potentially life-threatening illnesses.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines work by creating antibodies that act as a sort of “stored memory” for fighting illness.
Once your body is exposed to antigens in the vaccine, our immune system immediately begins creating an imprint of how to fight illness. Boosters work as a “refresher” to the original vaccine, reminding the immune system of the instructions it needs to fight illness. Vaccines DO NOT expose us to an actual virus or bacterium, rewrite our cellular DNA or “stay in our bodies forever” as some misconceptions suggest. Vaccines mimic the natural disease-fighting process of our bodies in a safe and effective way.
Why We Recommend Routine Vaccines
Vaccines were created to eradicate dangerous, potentially life-threatening illnesses from affecting our day-to-day lives.
It wasn’t very long ago that we had to contend with measles, chicken pox and even polio outbreaks in schools and communities.
Disease experts and doctors create scheduled recommendations based on the prevalence of disease or how common the disease is and how it affects children. Medical professionals use this information and vaccine schedules published by the CDC to determine which vaccines your child will receive at each wellness visit. It is very important to adhere to these vaccine schedules as recommended, as there is no benefit to “spacing out” vaccines and this practice can actually cause more harm than good by leaving your child with incomplete immunity.
Myth vs. Fact
Vaccines do have studied side effects, although they are very rare. However, word of mouth and media messages often intensify the imagined fear surrounding vaccines administered to young children. If you have questions about the side effects or contents of specific vaccines, please ask your provider at your child’s next wellness visit. It is important to know that receiving more than one vaccine per visit is not only completely safe, it is highly recommended.
Multiple vaccines will not “overload” your child’s immune system and cause them to become sicker. It is also untrue that vaccines contain additives in harmful amounts. Recently, there has been increased attention to aluminum content in vaccines, however research has shown that the levels of this and other preservatives contained in vaccines are actually no more than what we consume in food and beverages on a daily basis.
The negative attention media has placed on vaccines and the link to autism has been especially damaging. This claim has been studied heavily and no association between vaccines and any behavioral or developmental disorder has been found. In fact, the early claims linking vaccines to autism and other diseases have been mostly retracted by the original authors, meaning they no longer support these faulty claims.
Meet the Major Players
• Hepatitis B continues to be a public health concern around the world, especially in developing countries. Illness with Hepatitis B can leave your child with lifelong liver problems. This vaccine is given in the hospital, right at birth, to minimize risk of infant exposure during delivery. We recommend children are vaccinated again at 2 and 6 months.
• Hepatitis A, another viral illness affecting the liver, is contracted through contaminated food and water. Cases in the United States have been cut drastically since the vaccine was approved for routine use in the early 1990’s. Our providers will recommend your child be
vaccinated at 12-24 months and 6 months from the first dose, as a booster.
• Tetanus – Immunization from tetanus is administered in the Dtap vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months, 1-2 years and 4-6 years. Additional protection from diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) are included with the tetanus vaccine. Tetanus is a painful and potentially fatal illness that occurs when we are exposed to the tetanus toxin, often through a scratch, poke or slice with contaminated metal. Pertussis or Whooping cough can cause serious illness in infants and young children, often requiring hospitalization to support breathing. For this reason, it is very important to remain current on your children’s Dtap vaccines if a new brother or sister is on the way.
• Poliovirus (IPV) – Polio is a disabling and potentially life threatening virus that is capable of invading the nervous system – affecting the brain and spinal cord. The disease has been all but eradicated in the United States thanks to vaccinations, but it is still important to vaccinate our children. Your provider will discuss Polio vaccinations at your child’s 2 months, 4 months, 12-24 months and 4-6 years well visits.
• MMR – Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine has received more attention in the media lately, due to the faulty claim that the virus is linked to rising incidences of autism in the United States. The measles is highly contagious, especially in parts of the world where vaccination levels are not optimal. Protection from Rubella is a priority for pregnant individuals and those with very young children, as the disease can cause miscarriage in an infected mother. Lastly, mumps immunity is included in the MMR vaccine as well and protects against a serious viral illness. We recommend your child receive the MMR vaccine at 12-24 months and 4-6 years.
• Pneumococcal – The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae causes ear, sinus and lung infections in children, as well as meningitis which affects the brain and nervous system. The best prevention from serious illness caused by this bacteria is vaccination at 2, 4 and 6 months and again at 12-24 months with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccines or PCV-13.
• Varicella – This virus causes chickenpox, an illness we used to incur as children by associating with other infected school children. Thanks to advances in medicine, school-aged children no longer need to suffer through painful blistering and fevers to obtain long-standing immunity. This is not only beneficial for the child, but also for parents and families as less illness means less missed school and work days. A common misconception associated with the varicella vaccine is that the “natural immunity” gleaned from infection will better protect an individual than that obtained from the vaccine. Research has shown that this is not the case.
• Rotavirus – This virus causes watery diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain that can lead to dehydration requiring hospitalization. The vaccine is the best way to protect from this life-threatening condition. We recommend an infant be vaccinated at 2, 4 and 6 months to protect them when they are small and most vulnerable. Our medical assistant will administer the vaccine from a small vial that your baby will drink to trigger
immune protection in the intestines.
• Flu – Lastly, the flu is a respiratory illness that affects infants and children differently than adults, due to their developing immune systems. Flu can cause fever, fussiness, vomiting and diarrhea. Very ill individuals may need to be hospitalized and unfortunately, even in developed countries infants and children die every year from the flu. This is a very serious, preventable illness and we highly recommend starting your child’s annual flu shots at 6 months to give them the best chance at beating the flu. Remember, just like adults, getting the flu shot will not completely prevent illness during flu season, but it will greatly help our body recognize and fight off the most dangerous strains of flu. Ask your provider for more information if you have further questions about the annual flu shot.
Closing Remarks and Resources
Vaccines have increasing importance at our wellness visits as we continue to strive for improved health and longevity in our community.
Protection with vaccines starts in childhood! For more detailed information, we recommend the following resources: www.familydoctor.org, www.aap.org/immunization, www.vaccine.org and www.pkids.org. As always, any questions or concerns you may have are always encouraged by your healthcare providers here at Cucamonga Valley Medical Group!