How Vaccines Work:
Vaccines help make you immune to serious diseases without getting sick first. Without a vaccine, you must actually get a disease in order to become immune to the germ that causes it. Vaccines work best when they are given at certain ages. For example, children don’t receive measles vaccine until they are at least one year old. If it is given earlier it might not work as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes a schedule for childhood vaccines from birth to 18 years of age.
Understanding the difference between vaccines, vaccinations, and immunizations can be tricky. Below is an easy guide that explains how these terms are used:
A vaccine is a product that produces immunity from a disease and can be administered through needle injections, by mouth, or by aerosol.
A vaccination is the injection of a killed or weakened organism that produces immunity in the body against that organism.
An immunization is the process by which a person or animal becomes protected from a disease. Vaccines cause immunization, and there are also some diseases that cause immunization after an individual recovers from the disease.
Vaccines are held to the highest standard of safety. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Vaccines undergo a rigorous and extensive evaluation program to determine a product’s safety and effectiveness. If a vaccine does receive approval by FDA, it is continuously monitored for safety and effectiveness.
Vaccine Benefits: Why get vaccinated?
Diseases have injured and killed many children over the years in the United States. Polio paralyzed about 37,000 and killed about 1,700 every year in the 1950s.
Hib disease was once the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under 5 years of age. About 15,000 people died each year from diphtheria before there was a vaccine. Up to 70,000 children a year were hospitalized because of rotavirus disease. Hepatitis B can cause liver damage and cancer in 1 child out of 4 who are infected, and tetanus kills 1 out of every 5 who get it.
Thanks mostly to vaccines, these diseases are not nearly as common as they used to be. But they have not disappeared, either. Some are common in other countries, and if we stop vaccinating they will come back here. This has already happened in some parts of the world. When vaccination rates go down, disease rates go up.
Most babies can safely get vaccines. But some babies should not get certain vaccines. Your doctor will help you decide.
- A child who has ever had a serious reaction, such as a life-threatening allergic reaction, after a vaccine dose should not get another dose of that vaccine. Tell your doctor if your child has any severe allergies, or has had a severe reaction after a prior vaccination. (Serious reactions to vaccines and severe allergies are rare.)
- A child who is sick on the day vaccinations are scheduled might be asked to come back for them.
Talk to your doctor…
- before getting DTaP vaccine, if your child ever had any of these reactions after a dose of DTaP:
- A brain or nervous system disease within 7 days,
- Non-stop crying for 3 hours or more,
- A seizure or collapse,
- A fever of over 105°F.
- before getting Polio vaccine, if your child has a life-threatening allergy to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B.
- before getting Hepatitis B vaccine, if your child has a life-threatening allergy to yeast.
- before getting Rotavirus Vaccine, if your child has:
- SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency),
- A weakened immune system for any other reason,
- Digestive problems,
- Recently gotten a blood transfusion or other blood product,
- Ever had intussusception (bowel obstruction that is treated in a hospital).
- before getting PCV13 or DTaP vaccine, if your child ever had a severe reaction after any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid (such as DTaP).
Vaccines can cause side effects, like any medicine. Most vaccine reactions are mild: tenderness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; or a mild fever. These happen to about 1 child in 4. They appear soon after the shot is given and go away within a day or two.
Individual childhood vaccines have been associated with other mild problems, or with moderate or serious problems:
- DTaP vaccine
- Mild problems: Fussiness (up to 1 child in 3); tiredness or poor appetite (up to 1 child in 10); vomiting (up to 1 child in 50); swelling of the entire arm or leg for 1-7 days (up to 1 child in 30) – usually after the 4th or 5th dose.
- Moderate problems: Seizure (1 child in 14,000); non-stop crying for 3 hours or longer (up to 1 child in 1,000); fever over 105°F (1 child in 16,000).
- Serious problems: Long term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage have been reported. These problems happen so rarely that it is hard to tell whether they were actually caused by the vaccination or just happened afterward by chance.
Polio vaccine / Hepatitis B vaccine / Hib vaccine
- These vaccines have not been associated with other mild problems, or with moderate or serious problems.
- Mild problems: During studies of the vaccine, some children became fussy or drowsy or lost their appetite.
- Mild problems: Children who get rotavirus vaccine are slightly more likely than other children to be irritable or to have mild, temporary diarrhea or vomiting. This happens within the first week after getting a dose of the vaccine.
- Serious problems: Studies in Australia and Mexico have shown a small increase in cases of intussusception within a week after the first dose of rotavirus vaccine. So far, this increase has not been seen in the United States, but it can’t be ruled out. If the same risk were to exist here, we would expect to see 1 to 3 infants out of 100,000 develop intussusception within a week after the first dose of vaccine.
What if there is a serious reaction?
What should I look for?
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.
Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web siteExternal Web Site Icon, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly – especially in infants and young children.
Interpreting Abbreviations on Records
To interpret commonly used acronyms and abbreviations that health care professionals use to record vaccinations, consult the Vaccine and Acronyms and Abbreviations list. This list also contains manufacturers’ trade names for vaccines and some common abbreviations for vaccine-preventable diseases.
And Remember: Never give a child under the age of 19 aspirin or aspirin products without first talking with a doctor. You could trigger a deadly disease known as Reye’s Syndrome.
What is a Vaccine: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/vaccines/understanding/Pages/whatVaccine.aspx
Vaccine Resources at CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html
Reye’s Syndrome: http://www.reyessyndrome.org
CDC Vaccine Video, Get The Picture: http://www.cdc.gov/CDCTV/GetThePicture/index.html
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