Child Immunizations and Screenings

Father or doctor giving an oral vaccination to three-month-old baby

Watching your child get a shot isn’t easy. It’s even harder if you have fears or concerns about the safety or necessity of the vaccine. Millions of parents immunize their kids each year without concern. Yet some parents have heard rumours that vaccines can cause serious health problems. So, how can parents get the facts about vaccine safety?

Protect Your Child

Regular immunizations and screenings keep kids — and the community — healthy

Infectious diseases such as whooping cough, rubella, polio and measles once killed thousands of people in the United States each year. That changed in the 20th century with the widespread use of vaccines. Today, the incidence of these diseases in the United States has dramatically declined, and the rate of childhood diseases is near an all-time low.

Consequently, you might wonder why your child needs a vaccine for a disease that your doctor may never see. The reason is that only smallpox has been entirely eradicated from the planet.

While the U.S. has a low rate of vaccine-preventable diseases, that’s not the case around the world. In 2011, 90 percent of the measles cases in the U.S. were associated with cases brought here from another country, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Children in the U.S. who are not vaccinated might get sick if they come into contact with infected travelers. A person suffering from one of these diseases in your child’s school can spread it to those who aren’t vaccinated.

What’s more, there are still vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States, such as hepatitis A, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, varicella, rotavirus, HPV and even the flu.

Vaccines are the best way to prevent children and the community from 16 serious diseases that can cause severe illness and even death. Combined with regular health screenings, they can put your child on the path toward a healthier future.

When should vaccination start?

Babies receive the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a dangerous disease of the liver. The hepatitis B virus is spread when blood, semen or other body fluids containing the virus enter the body of an uninfected person.  A mother with HBV can give it to her baby.

Why vaccinate babies at birth? Young people with HBV may have lifelong, incurable liver problems and, eventually, develop liver cancer. Babies receive two additional doses at 1-to-2 months old and at 6-to-18 months old.

It’s important to vaccinate children in their early years because they’re so vulnerable to diseases. Although newborns have some antibodies received from their mothers, these antibodies are gone in just a few months.

Multiple doses are required for all but one vaccine. Your pediatrician’s office will keep a record of all the needed vaccinations and the age at which your child should receive them. You can also use this chart created by the CDC.

Does my child need a vaccine for each disease?

To reduce office visits and bolster a child’s immune system, some vaccines are combined. For instance, the MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The MMRV vaccine also protects against varicella (chicken pox).

DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). PCV-13 targets 13 strains of pneumococcus, and the MCV-4 vaccine protects against four strains of meningococcus.

Studies have found these combinations to be just as safe and effective when given together as they are when administered separately.

If you’re going abroad, talk to your pediatrician about the additional travel vaccines needed for a particular country.

What are some common reactions from a vaccine?

Vaccines today are safe, but your child may experience pain, redness and swelling at the injection site or a low-grade fever. Most reactions will subside in a day or two. Call your doctor if the reactions persist or if your child has a temperature of 101 degrees F or higher.

It’s very rare, but severe reactions such as shortness of breath, wheezing, vomiting and throat swelling can happen within a few minutes to a few hours of receiving a vaccine. Seek emergency care if your child has any of these symptoms. They could be a sign of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.

To date, studies have not shown a link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder.

When should health screenings start?

Tests and procedures to protect your child’s health begin shortly after birth when health care providers evaluate the baby’s heart and lungs.

Before the baby leaves the hospital, a few drops of blood are sent to the lab to check for common and rare metabolic disorders. Babies are also checked for jaundice, and at Christiana Care, they receive a screening for their hearing and congenital heart disease before they go home.

Research has found that the earlier a child is diagnosed with a condition such as congenital hyperthyroidism or hearing loss, the better their outcomes will be in the future.

When should my child undergo additional screenings?

Your pediatrician or family doctor will conduct developmental and health screenings during each visit. The doctor or nurse will ask about skills such as crawling, walking and smiling, which are known as “milestones.” The CDC has the Milestone Tracker mobile app to help you keep tabs on each one.

For more information about immunizations and health screenings, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vaccines and Immunizations

Vaccines for Infants, Children and Teens

Medical Reviewers:
Stephen C. Eppes, M.D.
Vice Chair of Pediatrics, Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases
Christiana Care Health System
David A. Paul, M.D.
Chair, Department of Pediatrics
Service Line Leader, Women and Children’s Service Line
Christiana Care Health System
Date Last Reviewed: September 13, 2018

What Every Parent Should Know About Immunizations

Your child’s healthcare provider is your first source of reliable information. Healthcare providers are bound by law to give you written information on the benefits and risks of each immunization suggested for your child. Reading this material can help you make a well-informed decision.

Most of your child’s vaccines are completed between birth and 6 years. Many vaccines are given more than once, at different ages, and in combinations. This means that you’ll need to keep a careful record of your child’s shots. Although your healthcare provider’s office will also keep track, people change healthcare providers and records get lost. The person ultimately responsible for keeping track of your child’s immunizations is you.

Keep this information in mind to help your child’s immunisations go more smoothly:

  • Common side effects of immunizations include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness, and fever. Discuss these side effects with your healthcare provider and ask what symptoms deserve an office call.
  • Ask your healthcare provider’s office if it participates in an immunization registry. This is a source you can go to if your immunization records get lost.
    Ask your healthcare provider’s office if it has an immunization reminder or recall system. This type of system will call to remind you when immunizations are due. It will also warn you if an immunization has been missed.
  • Always bring your immunizations record with you to all of your child’s office visits. Make sure the healthcare provider signs and dates every immunization.
  • Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have. They have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.

Screenings

The U.S. has a national program of newborn screening tests to check for several different disorders that can be treated if they are found very early in life. If the “”screening”” test results are abnormal, it means further need to be done to tell whether the baby has a disorder. Their is a core set of 34 of newborn screening tests for the entire country. But, additional tests done vary among the states. Some disorders are more common in some states, making these individual tests more important in those states.

The baby’s blood is checked for most of the disorders. A heel-prick is used to sample the baby’s blood. The blood is then sent to a state lab for testing. The baby’s heel may have some redness at the pricked site, and some babies may have bruising, but this usually disappears in a few days.