On Childhood Immunizations: Talking to Parents

  • April 21, 2017

Why Vaccinate – The Evidence

Certain diseases, preventable by way of prompt immunization during childhood, can seriously endanger health and even be life-threatening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ([CDC], 2013). Although the human body possesses natural mechanisms for fighting illnesses (immune system), its responses to certain potentially deadly infections may not be adequately strong or timely enough to effectively counteract them. Furthermore, when it comes to infants (age 0-12 months), the immune system is not sufficiently developed to produce the required antibodies and disease-fighting cells. “The young human child […] is at risk from many pathogenic viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites,” write Simon, Hollander, & McMichael (2015, p. 3). In order to provide disease-specific protection against a vast array of illnesses, many of which are infectious (a grave public health issue), parents are strongly encouraged to have their children, especially infants, vaccinated according to the recommended childhood immunization schedule published by the CDC (see link below). At Whittier Street Health Center, we offer our patient population all the necessary childhood immunizations and encourage parents to come forth with their questions and concerns.

Why Parents Opt Out

Many parents elect not to have their children immunized due to fear of the unknown, placing them (and many others) at increased risk for vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD), such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and chicken pox (Anderson, 2015). Some parents hesitate to immunize their kids based on largely unfounded reports that vaccines cause cognitive and long-term illnesses, such as autism, while others object due to religious convictions, reports Diekema (2012).

Talking to Parents

Listening to parents and providing answers to their specific, vaccine-related questions and concerns, with supporting scientific evidence, is a highly recommended strategy for improving childhood vaccination rates, writes Anderson (2015). At Whittier, our healthcare providers engage parents as partners in the preventive care of infants and children, explaining the benefits of vaccination, as well as the risks of non-vaccination, in a manner respectful of personal experiences and cultural preferences. Many parents believe that receiving more than one vaccine at a time can overwhelm a child’s immune system, which is erroneous (Thompson, 2015). In addition to personal worries, such common misconceptions about vaccines should be and are also addressed.

Anderson, V. L. (2015). Promoting childhood immunizations. The Journal of Nurse
Practitioners 11(1), 1-10.
Centers for Disease Control ([CDC], 2013). Understanding how vaccines work.
Retrieved from:
Centers for Disease Control ([CDC], 2017). Two-thousand seventeen recommended
immunizations for children from birth through six years old. Retrieved from
Diekema, D. S. (2012). Improving childhood vaccination rates. The New England
Journal of Medicine 366(5), 391-393.
Simon, A. K., Hollander, G. A., & McMichael, A. (2015). Evolution of the immune
System in humans from infancy to old age. Proceedings of the Royal Society B:
Biological Sciences 282(1821).
Thompson, A. E. (2015). Childhood vaccines. Journal of the American Medical
Association 313 (19), 1988-1988.