What Parents Need to Know About Immunizations

Millions of parents immunize their kids each year without any concerns. Yet some parents have heard rumors that vaccines can cause serious health problems, and many are concerned right now about the safety of taking their child into the doctor’s office during a pandemic. But to help curb outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, it’s important kids stay on schedule with immunizations, including the flu vaccine.

“It is very important for parents to make sure children receive their flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” says Andi Shane, MD, MPH, MSc, System Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “A flu shot helps prevent and decrease the severity, hospitalizations and even death as a result of the flu. It’s something parents can do to help protect your child and yourself.”

How do parents get the facts about vaccine safety?

Your child's healthcare provider is your first source of reliable information. They are bound by law to give you written information on the benefits and risks of each immunization suggested for your child. Reading this material can help you make a well-informed decision.

Another source of in-depth information on vaccine safety is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Are immunizations safe?

Yes. All vaccines are fully tested before being approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Vaccines contain a dead or weakened form of the disease-causing virus or bacteria. These cause the body to produce antibodies that protect the child from that disease.

Is it safe for my child to get scheduled immunizations during COVID-19?

Pediatrician’s offices are open and prepared to help keep you and your child safe during an office visit by cleaning extensively, requiring masks, and carefully scheduling appointments to accommodate social distancing.

At Children’s, we have implemented multiple safety protocols to help protect patients, visitors and staff, including:

  • Universal masking: Everyone is required to wear a mask at all times while in our facilities.
  • Wellness screening: A screener at every facility entrance will take your temperature using a touchless thermometer and ask you a series of health questions.
  • Visitor restrictions: We are limiting the number of people allowed in our facilities.
  • Social distancing: Signage reminds patients, visitors and staff to stay 6 feet apart.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting: Our custodial staff is cleaning high-traffic areas and all patient rooms with high-grade disinfectant between each appointment.

Should I still worry about immunizations if my kid’s school is offering online learning only?

Children should be up to date on vaccinations regardless of whether they are heading back to school.

“They’re going to interact with people still,” Dr. Shane adds. “Immunizations help prevent other infections.”

Diseases like polio and mumps are rare, so why are vaccines necessary?

Many of these diseases still thrive in other parts of the world. Travelers can and do bring these viruses back to the United States. Without the protection of vaccines, these diseases could easily spread here again.

Don't vaccines cause harmful side effects, illness and even death?

Some children have minor side effects from being vaccinated, such as a slight fever or swelling at the injection site. The risk for death or serious side effects is so small that it is difficult to document. Claims that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorder or other diseases have been carefully researched and disproved. Rumors still persist that an increase in autism in children is caused by thimerosal, a preservative added to vaccines. Thimerosal, however, was removed from all vaccines in Sweden in 1995, and the frequency of autism has continued to increase there. It has also been nearly eliminated in the United States, where autism rates also continue to increase, as they have around the world. After a thorough review, the Institute of Medicine rejected the idea that vaccines had any relationship with autism in 2004.

Will giving babies multiple vaccines at one time overload their immune system?

Many studies have been done to evaluate the safety of multiple vaccines. None have shown that multiple vaccines cause a problem. Children are exposed to many foreign substances every day with no harmful side effects. Scientists say that the tiny amount of virus or bacteria in vaccines is not enough to harm a child. What can be harmful, however, is delaying a child's vaccines unnecessarily.

Why It’s Important to Be Up To Date on Your Child’s Immunization Schedule

Most of your child’s vaccines are completed between birth and 6 years old. Many vaccines are given more than once, at different ages and in combinations. This means you’ll need to keep a careful record of your child's shots. Although most healthcare provider's office keep track of immunizations, people change pediatricians and records get lost. The person ultimately responsible for tracking your child's immunizations is you.

What routine vaccinations does my child need?

Recommended immunization schedules like the one below may vary depending on where you live, your child’s health, the type of vaccine and what vaccines are available. Talk with your child’s doctor about which vaccines your kid may need.

  • Birth: hepatitis B vaccine (HepB)
  • 1 to 2 months: HepB
  • 2 months: diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP); haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine (Hib); inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV); pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV); rotavirus vaccine (RV)
  • 4 months: DTaP, Hib, IPV, PCV, RV
  • 6 months: DTaP, Hib, PCV, RV
  • 6 months and annually: influenza
  • 6 to 18 months: HepB, IPV
  • 12 to 15 months: Hib; measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) vaccine (MMR); PCV; chickenpox (varicella)
  • 12 to 23 months: hepatitis A vaccine (HepA)
  • 15 to 18 months: DTaP
  • 4 to 6 years: DTaP, MMR, IPV, varicella
  • 12 to 15 years: human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV); tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster (Tdap); meningococcal conjugate vaccine
  • 16 to 18 years: meningococcal B vaccine (MenB)

You can also download an easy-to-read immunization schedule and record form from the CDC.

If your child has missed an immunization, you don't have to go back and start over for most vaccines. The previous immunizations are still good, and your child’s doctor will just resume the immunization schedule. If, for any reason, your child receives additional doses of a vaccine, this is also not a concern. But your child will still need any future doses according to the recommended schedule.

Tips for Keeping Track of Your Child’s Immunization Record

Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medications we have. They have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today. So, it’s important for parents to keep a record of your child’s immunizations.

We’ve created a list of tips to help track your child’s immunization record:

  • Ask your child’s pediatrician if he participates in an immunization registry. This is a source you can go to if your immunization records get lost.
  • Ask your child’s pediatrician if his office has an immunization reminder or recall system that will call to remind you when immunizations are due. It will also warn you if an immunization has been missed.
  • Bring your child’s immunizations record with you to all of her office visits, and make sure the pediatrician signs and dates every immunization.