One of the most important ways parents protect their child's health is by keeping them up-to-date on immunizations. To make childhood vaccines as effective as possible, several of them are broken up into multiple doses scheduled to be given over time at specific ages. That's why, at some
wellness visits, children may be due for a few different shots.
Some parents wonder if getting more than one shot at a time will cause them to interfere with each other, or be too much for their baby's immune system. But, rest assured, this is how immunizations are proven to
work best to safely and effectively build your child's immunity against many serious illnesses.
Vaccines contain antigens. An antigen is anything that causes the immune system to respond, like bacteria, viruses, chemicals, or pollen. The antigens in vaccines are proteins or sugars made from bacteria, or proteins made from viruses. It may be surprising, but today's vaccines actually have fewer antigens than the vaccines of the past.
For example, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, vaccines protected kids against eight diseases and had more than 3,000 antigens. The vaccines that kids get today are more advanced. They protect against 14 diseases and only contain around 150 antigens. So even though your child is getting more vaccines than you or your parents did, their antigen exposure is still a lot less.
Daily antigen exposure
Babies put everything they can get their hands on into their mouths. They play on the floor. They're also sometimes around people who are sick. Even the dust they inhale and the food they eat contains antigens. Translation: Your baby is exposed to far more antigens on a daily basis than vaccines contain.
Safety of vaccines
Your child will need many vaccines before the age of 2 years. Some of them need to be given in more than one dose. This means that your child could have up to five shots at one office visit. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires scientists to carefully study vaccines before they are FDA-approved. One way they're tested is along with vaccines that have already been approved. This helps the researchers make sure that the vaccines don't affect each other and that they are safe to give together.
Vaccine Side effects
The possible side effects are the same whether your child has one shot or five. Common side effects are minimal and could include:
For most kids, side effects are mild and go away quickly.
Timing of vaccines
It might seem like a lot to see your baby getting four or five shots at once. But keep in mind that scientists study these vaccines thoroughly. They are given at what scientific research has found to be the best times to protect kids from serious diseases. These illnesses can cause serious complications, like heart disease, hearing loss, and liver damage. They can even lead to death.
The recommended vaccination schedule is reviewed every year and approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The CDC has parent-friendly
vaccination schedules that shows when your child needs each vaccine.
Is it OK to delay vaccines?
What about asking your doctor to use an alternative schedule so you can spread your child's immunizations out? The problem with this is that you may be putting your child at more risk. Experts create the recommended vaccination schedule to coordinate with the times the vaccines will work best with kids' immune systems.
Babies are the most likely age group to be hospitalized or die from the diseases these vaccines protect them from. This is why it's important to vaccinate your child as soon as possible. If you delay or skip vaccines, your child won't be protected from these serious illnesses when they're the most vulnerable.
If you've fallen behind on your child's vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a good time to get caught up. Read more
here. Don't hesitate to talk with your child's pediatrician about childhood immunizations if you have any questions.