Got a vaccine question? We have answers
Doctors hear the questions all the time: How safe are vaccines? Why do you have to give so many at once? Why can’t I spread them out more? What’s really in there? What about the thing I read on social media saying that vaccines are worse than the diseases they’re supposed to prevent?
These are all valid questions—because there’s no such thing as a stupid parenting question. Everybody, including me and Bundoo OB/GYN Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, wants what’s best for their children. But when it comes to vaccine science, us doctors have access to more information than most people. So, with a spreading measles outbreak in the news, we thought it would be a good idea to host a Facebook Live dealing with your vaccine questions. Below, we listed a few of the most common questions we got from readers, but if you’d like to see the whole Facebook Live event, scroll to the bottom and click play.
How can parents know what vaccines their babies will get and when?
We follow a very specific immunization schedule that’s created by AAP and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. The schedule is readily accessible to anyone online, at www.cdc.gov. You can easily find the whole year-by-year schedule. It’s a great place to start.
Are these diseases really that bad? My mom had chicken pox. I had chicken pox. Why do we suddenly need vaccines for these diseases that aren’t a big deal.
We get it! We grew up in an era where you got chicken pox and it was OK. Everybody got it. The same with the flu. Everybody gets the flu. But in the world of pregnant moms, the flu can be deadly. Women end up in the hospital with the flu. So if we can prevent it, we should.
Let’s also took about rubella. People talk about the measles a lot, but rubella—the R from the MMR—can be passed from mom to baby and develop into congenital rubella syndrome. If you are having a baby girl, you are protecting your baby from getting congenital rubella syndrome with the vaccine. This can cause some very serious complications later in life. Same with the HPV vaccine, because it’s newer. A lot of moms are asking why they need it, when no one needed it before. The answer is that you don’t want your daughter to get cervical cancer, which 12,000 women get a year and can be fatal. These diseases really are that bad.
Why do I have to vaccinate my own child? Aren’t they protected because other kids get vaccines?
We vaccinate not only to keep our own kids healthy, but for other children too. When we have 90 percent of the population vaccinated, it protects the children who are the most vulnerable, like children in treatment for leukemia. Once we slide down past 90 percent immunization, it has a profound effect on national health.
Why are we giving so many vaccines?
The vaccine schedule isn’t our schedule—we didn’t develop it. It’s been backed by science and research and then revised as data comes in. We give vaccines at specific times because of how they interact with a child’s immune system, and some vaccines work together to boost the child’s immune response. When parents say they want to do an “alternative schedule,” I say there really is no alternative schedule. There’s the schedule and there’s their opinion or decision to separate them.
Are they any benefits or risks to spacing them out?
The risk is really getting the disease.
What about the ingredients in vaccines?
Pregnant moms are already so cognizant of what goes into vaccines, and parents worry about what they give their babies. One of the most common ingredients we hear about is aluminum. The point we make is that there’s already aluminum in the environment. A breastfed baby will get a certain amount of aluminum every year. A baby eating solid food will get aluminum. The levels in vaccines aren’t physiological, meaning they aren’t significant, compared to what babies are already exposed to. Other ingredients, like thimerasol and mercury, either have been removed from vaccines or are present at such small levels they have no effect. This is a very valid question, but it’s unfortunate there’s so much misinformation out there.
Why are there so many more vaccines now?
The truth is that medicine evolves. We don’t put kids into the same car seat we used 20 years ago. We don’t use a lot of the same drugs we used in the past. As our ability to treat diseases improves, so does vaccine science. Great example: there’s a brand new malaria vaccine that has been given out throughout the world that’s a game-changer for world health. To say we wouldn’t want a medicine today because we didn’t have it 30 years ago doesn’t make sense.