Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in young children. In 1999, a rotavirus vaccine was taken off the market because it was linked to an increased risk for intussusception, a type of bowel obstruction, in young infants. However, a new, different rotavirus vaccine called RotaTeq became available in 2006 and has not been found to have this increased risk. RotaTeq has been shown to prevent approximately 75% of cases of rotavirus infection and 98% of severe cases. The vaccine is now on the regular immunization schedule to be given orally to infants as a liquid during standard vaccination visits at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months. Your doctor will have the most current information.
Do immunizations cause SIDS, multiple sclerosis, or other problems?
There are concerns, many of which circulate on the Internet, linking some vaccines to multiple sclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other problems. To date, several studies have failed to show any connection between immunizations and these conditions. The number of SIDS cases has actually fallen by more than 50% in recent years, whereas the number of vaccines administered yearly has continued to rise.
Why does my child need to be immunized if the disease has been eliminated?
Diseases that are rare or nonexistent in the United States, like measles and polio, still exist in other parts of the world. Doctors continue to vaccinate against them because it’s easy to come into contact with illnesses through travel. That includes anyone who may not be properly immunized who’s coming into the United States, as well as Americans traveling overseas.
If immunization rates fell, a disease introduced by someone visiting from another country could cause serious damage in an unprotected population. In 1994, polio was brought to Canada from India, but it didn’t spread because so many people had been immunized. It’s only safe to stop vaccinations for a particular disease when that disease has been eradicated worldwide, as in the case of smallpox.
How long does immunity last after getting a vaccine?
A few vaccines, like the two for measles or the series for hepatitis B, may make you immune for your entire life. Others, like tetanus, last for many years but require periodic shots (boosters) for continued protection against the disease.
The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine also does not give lifelong immunity, and that may be one reason why there are still outbreaks of the disease. And although pertussis isn’t a serious problem for older kids and adults, it can be for infants and young children. Because of this, adolescents and adults now receive a pertussis booster along with the tetanus and diphtheria booster (Tdap) — an important step in controlling this infection.
It’s important to keep a record of vaccinations so the doctor knows when your child is due for a booster. Also make sure your child gets the flu vaccine each year, if it isn’t in short supply. Having been immunized last year won’t protect someone from getting the flu this year because the protection wears off and flu viruses constantly change. That’s why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.
The flu vaccine reduces the average person’s chances of catching the flu by up to 80% during the season. But because the flu vaccine doesn’t prevent infection by all of the viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, getting the vaccine isn’t a guarantee that someone won’t get sick during the season. But even if someone who’s gotten the shot gets the flu, symptoms will usually be fewer and milder.
Are vaccines continuously studied and improved because they’re unsafe?
The FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research is the government agency responsible for regulating vaccines in the United States. Working in conjunction with the CDC and the NIH, they continuously research and monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness.
New vaccines are licensed only after thorough laboratory studies and clinical trials, and safety monitoring continues even after a vaccine has been approved. There have been — and will continue to be — improvements (such as those that have already been made to the DTaP and polio vaccines, for example) that will minimize potential side effects and ensure the best possible safety standards.
Where can I get affordable immunizations for my child?
Clearly, vaccines are one of the best tools we have to keep kids healthy, but the effectiveness of immunization programs depends on availability. You can receive inexpensive or free vaccines through many local public health clinics and community health centers, and campaigns to vaccinate kids often hold free vaccination days.
A program called Vaccines for Children covers Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, Alaskan and Native American populations, and some underinsured kids for routine immunizations up to 18 years of age. The vaccines are provided by the government and administered in the doctor’s office. However, the doctor’s visit itself is not covered (unless the child has insurance, including Medicaid). But some public health clinics may cover both the visit and the immunizations.
Where can I find out more about immunizations?
Read Your Child’s Immunizations for details about each recommended immunization. Also, the CDC’s National Immunization Program maintains a website dedicated to helping consumers evaluate information about vaccinations from sources in the media and on the Internet.
And talk with your doctor about which immunizations your child needs — working together, you can help keep your child healthy.