Are vaccines safe for my baby?
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022
For new parents, keeping babies safe and healthy is the number one priority. For National Infant Immunization Week (April 24-30), Vaccinate Your Family asked two trusted nurses to help address the most common concerns we hear from parents about vaccines for their babies. Read on for answers from Nurse Veniese Lawrence, a certified nurse midwife and nurse practitioner at UPMC in North Central PA, and Mary Koslap-Petraco, a Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice, immunization expert, and clinical assistant professor at the Stony Brook University School of Nursing (and mom and grandmother!).
I’m afraid vaccines given to my baby will make them sick with side effects. Does my baby really need them?
Nurse Mary: I hear your concerns about the vaccines. Yes, your baby needs them. Vaccines have saved the lives of so many children. At the beginning of the 20th Century many children died before their second birthday because they were infected with diseases like measles, diphtheria, meningitis and pneumonia. Many others were permanently crippled by polio.
Nurse Veniese: There ARE some possible side effects associated with vaccines. This includes redness, swelling or soreness to the site, body aches, low-grade fever and chills. These side effects are usually mild and resolve quickly. Comfort measures can be taken to relieve some of these side effects. For example, a cold compress can be applied to the injection site to relieve soreness. With any mild side effect, subsequent dosing of subsequent doses are necessary to ensure full efficacy of the vaccine. Speak to your healthcare provider about any symptoms.
This seems like too many vaccines too soon. Can I wait to give them vaccines?
Nurse Mary: I hear you and I understand how concerned you are about all these vaccines so quickly. The most important time to protect baby is before the first birthday. We want to get vaccines given on time to offer the baby the most protection from vaccine-preventable diseases as possible. Yes, it is safe to give all of the vaccines that the baby is due for at the same time. The baby has a very well-developed immune system and can sort out all of the vaccines they will be given. Delaying vaccines increases the chance baby will catch one of the diseases that the vaccines will protect them from.
Nurse Veniese: Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend a vaccine schedule and advise against deviating from that schedule. Studies all across the globe were done to create the recommended schedule with the best times to administer vaccines to prevent illness of your baby. By following this schedule, your child is ensured to receive a safe dosing of the vaccines without interaction between them.
How do we know vaccines don’t cause autism?
Nurse Veniese: Multiple studies over the years and very recently have proven that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. The ingredient that sparked this controversy is mercury or thimerosal which was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines in 1999. Even before 1999, studies show NO link between thimerosal and autism.
Nurse Mary: In fact, there are some studies from Europe that included children who were not vaccinated at all and those children had higher rates of autism than vaccinated children.
How do we know vaccines are safe for my baby’s long-term health and development?
Nurse Mary: Vaccines are subjected to very strong studies that look at possible side effects. While nothing is 100% without risk, there is a much greater chance of your baby being hurt by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. And vaccines are continuously monitored for any side effects by several government agencies.
Nurse Veniese: Potential long-term effects are continuously monitored and reported to surveillance databases available to anyone in the community. The recommended vaccines have been proven to be safe without long-term effects on health and development.
Can vaccines impact my baby’s ability to have children of their own one day?
Nurse Veniese: There is no evidence that vaccines could affect future fertility. Vaccines have been available for many decades and administered to millions of people all over the world allowing sufficient data and evidence to disprove the claim that vaccines affect the reproductive system.
Nurse Mary: I hear you and I have had those same questions myself, so I looked the reputable scientific sites to see what they had to say about this. There is no evidence at all that vaccines affect fertility. Yes, I did read that COVID-19 vaccine can affect women’s periods and make them heavier and longer but it was a very short-lived problem and lasted only one or at most two cycles.
How can I be sure any vaccine I receive while pregnant won’t harm my baby?
Nurse Veniese: There are three vaccines that are recommended during pregnancy: influenza, Tdap and the COVID-19 vaccine series. These vaccines help to prevent serious illnesses that can affect pregnant people, their unborn children and newborns. Each of these vaccines is proven to be safe during pregnancy without long-term effects.
Vaccine Your Family’s mission is to protect people of all ages from vaccine-preventable diseases. Learn more about the vaccines recommended for babies and children and join the conversation this week by using #LetsTalkAboutVaxBaby on social media.