Ask the Doctor: Protecting Your Child With Vaccines

Susan GoldbergVaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children and teens from a variety of potentially harmful diseases. While these diseases are not common in the U.S., they persist around the world. Susan Goldberg, MD, a pediatrician with Palmetto Pediatrics, answers some common questions.

ImmunizationsQ: Why are infant and childhood immunizations so important?

These shots protect children from a number of potentially life-threatening diseases, including measles, mumps and influenza. By getting your child immunized, you will be fighting disease in two ways. First, you will be protecting your own child. Secondly, since healthy children don’t spread disease, you will be protecting other children as well.

Q: How do immunizations work?

Vaccines work by preparing a child’s body to fight illness. Each immunization contains either a killed or weakened germ that causes a particular disease. The body practices fighting the disease by making antibodies, special proteins that fight that germ. This way, if your child is ever exposed to the actual disease, the antibodies are already in place and the body knows how to fight it. This is called immunity.

Q: Are immunizations safe?

Yes, very safe. But like any medicine they can occasionally cause reactions. Usually these are mild, like a sore arm or a slight fever. Serious reactions are rare. Your doctor or nurse will discuss these with you before giving immunizations to your child. The important thing to remember is that children are in much more danger from the diseases than from the shots!

Q: What if my child missed some shots and is behind schedule?

It is never too late to start getting immunizations. If your child has only had some of his/ her shots, he/she can still be fully immunized. The shots already given will count. Just continue the schedule where they left off.