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What you need to know about childhood vaccines

The topic of vaccines comes up often during my visits with children and their families. As caregivers for their children, parents should have all the information about vaccinations to make an informed decision.

Unfortunately, I have personal experiences with some of the childhood diseases that vaccines now help prevent. The year that I was born, my brother spent four months in the hospital with polio, leaving him physically disabled. This had a profound effect on our family, and many other families whose lives were impacted by polio. The annual number of polio cases in United States fell from more than 40,000 cases in the epidemic years to no reported cases in the U.S. today.

Other illnesses impacted my childhood: I had chicken pox at two years old, and I remember missing a week of kindergarten with the mumps. As an eighth-grader, I missed three weeks of school with the measles. Not every child who had these diseases was as lucky as I was. 

There is a series of vaccines recommended for their children to receive before age two, and several vaccines are combined. Babies typically receive two to three vaccines during a visit. I know how difficult it can be to see your baby get shots — especially multiple shots at one visit; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control both recommend multiple shots per visit.

Here are some of the illnesses that these recommended immunizations protect against.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are very serious bacterial diseases. Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure and paralysis; thankfully, it is rare in the U.S. today. Also rare in the U.S. is tetanus, or lockjaw, which can cause painful muscle tightening and stiffness. Sometimes referred to as whooping cough, pertussis can cause severe pneumonia, especially in infants.

Measles, mumps and rubella

Measles, mumps and rubella are often grouped together, referred to as MMR, because there is one vaccines for the three illness. Measles can cause pneumonia and permanent neurological damage. Mumps can cause painful gland swelling, neurological damage and, if contracted by males, loss of fertility. Rubella can cause a mild illness with rash. Like the Zika virus, if rubella is contracted by pregnant women, there is a risk of serious birth defects.

Vaccine information statement: MMR vaccine


Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus in the throat and intestinal tract. Most people who have been infected have no symptoms, but polio can cause paralysis or, in the worst cases, death.

Haemophilus and pneumococcus

Occurring most often in infants and children younger than five years old, haemophilus is a bacteria that can cause lifelong disabilities. Infants younger than two years old are most at risk of pneumococcus, which starts as an infection in the lungs. Both are bacterial diseases that cause severe meningitis cases in babies.

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox and rotavirus

Before the vaccine was created, contagious chickenpox caused about 4 million people to get sick. Hepatitis A and B are serious illnesses that affect the liver. Rotavirus is most common in infants and young children, causing severe diarrhea and dehydration.


More commonly called the flu, influenza is something that most people, unfortunately, are familiar with. Young children are at high risk for serious complications if they get the flu.

It is important to note the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommend the use of nasal mist influenza vaccines because it was found to be only three percent effective for children ages two to 17. Our clinics will follow these guidelines and provide influenza vaccines by injection only.  

If you have any questions about vaccines, don't hesitate to ask your provider. It is what we are here for.


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