Sunrise Children's Hospital August 02, 2015

Vaccines are a hot-button issue. Some parents speak aggressively against vaccinating their children for fear of side effects. Others argue all children should be vaccinated to keep sicknesses from spreading. “I inform my families that the risk of the potential diseases is far greater than the potential of some of the side effects associated with vaccines,” says Dr. Atousa Ghaneian, M.D., F.A.A.P., of Healthy Kids Pediatrics and Sunrise Children’s Hospital.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines build the body's immunity to certain infections by mimicking the symptoms of that infection. Vaccines do not cause infection but allow the body to produce protective antibodies, anti-toxin or neutralizing components within the immune system. The antibodies then fight against microorganisms that cause disease.

Upon receiving a vaccine, some patients may experience minor symptoms associated with the imitation infection such as a mild fever. Those symptoms are perfectly normal and build the body’s immunity.

Why is it important to vaccinate children?

Vaccinating a child not only will protect him or her from disease but will help ensure the health of others in the community. “Many vaccine-preventable diseases can cause serious health concerns,” Ghaneian said. “Some require hospitalization and can be fatal.”

Vaccines allow a child’s immune system to use its natural defenses and antibodies to fight disease, reducing the risk of infection and ideally developing immunity.

Some guidelines vary state to state

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidelines for parents about which vaccines are recommended for children throughout different stages of their development. Whether a vaccine is required is up to the state in which you live. Your pediatrician can guide you in a proper vaccination schedule.

Do vaccinations have any side effects?

Side effects of vaccines are minimal, but they do exist, as with any injection or medication. For instance, swelling and redness can occur around the injection site. To relieve any discomfort, Ghaneian suggests using a cold compress and taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.

What's in vaccines? How are they made?

Vaccines typically all work the same way, regardless of what disease they target or how they are made. “A component of the virus or the bacteria is used in a way that will allow the recipient of the vaccine to develop an immune response without developing the actual symptoms of the disease or developing the disease itself,” Ghaneian said.

  • Antigen: The main component of a vaccine is a modified version of the virus the vaccine protects against. The antigen is altered from its original form to produce an immune response rather than cause the disease.
  • Suspending fluids: Sterile water or saline is used to house components of the vaccine. Stabilizers are added to protect vaccines from adverse conditions.
  • Preservatives are added to some vaccines to prolong their shelf life.
  • Adjuvant (i.e. aluminum salt), which enhances the immune response, sometimes is added to vaccines.
  • Residual materials such as egg protein, used to grow the virus or bacteria in the vaccine, can appear.

What if I'm apprehensive about vaccinating my child?

Concerns about vaccines are common. But Ghaneian said extensive scientific data demonstrate there is no relationship between the rise of autism and vaccines. With that in mind, she asked: “If you have the choice to possibly prevent life-threatening disease, why wouldn’t you?”

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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