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Understanding Childhood Vaccines

Understanding Childhood Vaccines

Vaccines are one of the most important life-saving medical innovations of the 20th century (yes, in the past 120 years). Health experts say vaccines has saved more lives over the course of the human history than every other medical intervention combined.

Pediatrician Ben Flannery, MD helps you understand childhood vaccines – why your child needs them, when to get them, and common side effects.

The Vaccine Schedule

Vaccinations generally begin at two months of age, with one exception—the hepatitis B vaccine, which is given at birth. The two-month, four-month, and six-month vaccine installations include:

  • Prevnar: protects against the bacteria pneumococcus, the most common cause of pneumonia and blood infection in infants and children

  • IPV: protects against polio, which has been eradicated in the U.S. but not globally

  • Hib: protects against Haemophilus influenza type b, a family of bacteria that very often cause meningitis

  • DTaP: protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough)

  • RV: protects against rotavirus, a virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea

At twelve months, new vaccines are introduced, including measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and hepatitis A.

This schedule may seem a little overwhelming for new parents. Dr. Ben Flannery, a pediatrician at the Northfield Clinic of Northfield Hospital + Clinics, advises enlisting the help of a pediatric or family practice provider right away.

“If you don’t already have a pediatric provider, the nursery can help you find one or provide suggestions,” Dr. Flannery says. “Then, at the initial two-month visit, we discuss all the immunizations and go through why they’re needed and some common side effects.”

Vaccine Debate

In recent years, vaccines have received blowback from a sector of individuals claiming that vaccines resulted in the development of autism or other developmental issues. Dr. Flannery says that Dr. Stanford Shulman of Northwestern University argues that most controversies arise because vaccines are successful: The public eventually has little or no memory of the morbidity or mortality that was caused by serious diseases like smallpox, measles, chickenpox and other vaccine preventable diseases.

“I think this is why vaccines are questioned so often these days,” Dr. Flannery says. “When vaccines work, we forget about what life was like before them. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, polio outbreaks would quarantine entire cities, and thousands of people would become disabled, debilitated or suffer death. Vaccines become a victim of their success, because people forget how scary these diseases can be.”

Too Many Pokes?

No one likes to see their child cry from an injection, but Dr. Flannery explains all the “pokes” at the immunization visits are necessary.

“It seems like a lot, I know. There are a lot more vaccines than when I was a child. That’s just because as we create more, and we determine they are safe, we want to get children protected as soon as possible,” Dr. Flannery says. “If we could put all the immunizations in one shot or administer it in different way where we didn’t have to poke kids, we would love to. But, that’s very difficult to do safely and effectively.”

Dr. Flannery firmly believes these vaccinations are a crucial part of a child’s development. “Ultimately, saving children’s lives is something that pediatricians and researchers are always pushing to find. When we vaccinate, the occurrence of these dangerous—and potentially deadly—diseases drops dramatically.”

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Listen to Dr. Flannery’s podcast “Understanding Childhood Vaccines” here: https://www.northfieldhospital.org/flannery-ben-md-faap

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