A quick guide to childhood vaccines

Kids are returning to group settings this September as they head back to school. Such settings increase the chance for diseases to spread. What’s the best way to prevent disease outbreaks and protect kids from serious diseases? Childhood vaccines.

The necessity of vaccines

“Kids need vaccines because there are still preventable diseases that cause illness, hospitalization, and even death,” says Christina Zilke, RN, immunization coordinator with Washtenaw County Public Health.

“Vaccines train your immune system to recognize bacteria and viruses that cause harm,” says Zilke. They help your body prevent the disease or reduce the effects.

Getting vaccines

Children from birth to age 6 receive a series of vaccines, usually administered in doses of two or more, to prevent diseases such as chickenpox and measles. Adolescents receive three vaccines to prevent disease and protect them from viruses and infections, such as the one that causes bacterial meningitis.

Primary care physicians provide vaccinations, typically covered by insurance. For children with Medicaid, no insurance, or insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines, Washtenaw County Public Health can give vaccinations. Appointments, available on Mondays and Tuesdays, should be scheduled by calling 734-544-6700.

Vaccine safety

“Their safety has been thoroughly and completely investigated,” says Dr. Beth Barclay, MD, a pediatrician with Liberty Pediatrics. “It is one of the best studied topics we have in pediatrics.”

There are side effects, as with with any medication, including low-grade fevers and soreness in the limbs where the inoculation is administered. “But there is overwhelming documentation that vaccines are safe,” comments Zilke.

What if parents are afraid? “We do our best to educate and come alongside them,” says Barclay, “to answer their fears with scientific evidence.”

Parents can request a nonmedical waiver, but must first receive education from Washtenaw County Health Department about the benefits of vaccination and the risks of disease.

To protect kids

Barclay offers a final analogy: “You don’t expect on a random drive to the store that you will get in a car accident,” she says. “But do you still put your child in a car seat? Yes, to protect them.” Likewise, vaccines protect kids.

What are vaccines?

A product that stimulates the immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease.

Who should get vaccinated?

Children from birth to age 6, plus adolescents > 10 years. Exceptions include children who have weakened immune systems due to illness or medical treatment or those who may be allergic to something in a vaccine.

When are they given?

Ten vaccines are given between birth and age 6; three vaccines are recommended for adolescents starting at the 11-12 years doctor’s visit.

Where are they given?

Your child will receive vaccinations at a pediatrician’s
office or at county health clinics in certain situations. “CVS and Walgreens also offer some vaccinations,”
says Barclay.

Why are they given?

To protect your child from 14 serious childhood diseases such as whooping cough. And, to protect your adolescent from certain infections, diseases and viruses.

How are they given?

Vaccines are given by injection (shot) except for rotavirus (liquid that is swallowed). Most are given in a series of two or more doses at specific ages.

For more information on vaccines, check

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