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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

April 28, 2022, Kirkilas, Gary, DO ,
5 things to know about vaccines for kids

Phoenix Children’s is dedicated to providing hope, healing and the best care for our patients and their families. This includes educating and guiding families to make the best decisions for their child’s health by answering questions around important topics – in this case, vaccines.  

We spoke to Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a Phoenix Children’s pediatrician, to break down what parents and guardians should know about vaccinating their children. 

1. They are extensively researched and tested before administration

Vaccines are safe for your children! All vaccines, including new ones as well as the routine childhood and adult vaccines, need to be extensively researched before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) recommend it for use. 

Clinical trials can often take several years to complete. During these trials, the vaccine is tested in three phases. It is administered to a small number of healthy individuals, and if it is found to be safe and effective, a larger number of people with more diverse backgrounds receive the vaccine at varied doses.

If the vaccine again proves to be safe, shows effectiveness, and specific necessary doses are found, it will then be given to a large group of thousands of people who are monitored for 6 months to several years. 

Researchers compare this group to those who did not receive the vaccine to assess the vaccine’s ability to prevent illness.

Once the clinical trial is complete, the data and results are sent to both the FDA and CDC to review. If the vaccine is safe and effective, the FDA will officially license the vaccine and the CDC will make a recommendation for its use. 

During an epidemic or pandemic, where large numbers of people are quickly becoming sick, the FDA can grant a vaccine an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). 

EUA still requires vaccines to complete rigorous safety protocols – including either completion of the same three-phase clinical trial or completion of the first two phases accompanied by mid-point data on phase three with recipients being followed for two months after receiving the vaccine.

It is important to acknowledge that a pandemic is an all-hands-on-deck effort where available resources, time and funding are allocated to the same cause: completing the three-phase trial. This is why vaccine development can be accomplished sooner, while all safety and effectiveness checks are still in place.

2. Pediatricians are resources to guide parents and guardians to make the best decisions for their children

Misunderstanding can contribute to vaccine fear. Common myths around vaccines include the worry that the vaccine will give the child the actual disease, that it can cause developmental issues, or that refusing to vaccinate your child doesn’t affect anyone else. 

This misinformation can be spread through places such as social media, but fortunately, we have the evidence and research to debunk these claims.

Your pediatrician is an excellent resource for all your vaccine questions. Their years of medical education and experience with vaccines can provide families evidence-based knowledge that can help make informed decisions for their child’s health.

Children with complex medical histories can be more susceptible to a severe course of common childhood illness – so vaccines are not only permitted, but highly encouraged in most cases. Because each child and medical condition is unique, formulate a plan with your pediatrician and specialty care provider regarding vaccines. 

3. Vaccines provide our bodies a roadmap for fighting infection

Vaccines provide our body’s immune system with vital information about viruses and bacteria. This information can be delivered to our immune system in different ways. 

With this information, our immune system makes antibodies that identify and attack any future viral or bacterial infections.

It can be thought of as giving our immune system a roadmap and head start on fighting off infections so that we either don’t become sick at all or if we do become sick, we experience milder symptoms.  

4. There are no side effects to be concerned about

The most common side effect of a vaccine is no side effect at all! A small number of pediatric patients might have a sore arm at the injection site, feel a little tired, or have a mild headache the following day. 

Some vaccines (like the DTaP and the MMR vaccine) may cause a mild fever the following day. These symptoms, if they occur, can easily be managed with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen. These side effects are signs that the vaccine is working, by stimulating a child’s immune system to better help them fight off future infections.

5. Vaccines are only impactful when fully utilized

We are unknowingly benefitting from vaccines every day! For example, polio causes paralysis, but we no longer see children in wheelchairs due to polio because we have a safe and effective polio vaccine. Babies are no longer born blind and deaf due to rubella because mothers have received the MMR vaccine prior to pregnancy. 

We can do our part by making informed decisions about vaccines for our children. Don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician questions as they come – their priority is keeping your child healthy and safe! 

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