Kids Going Back to School? Find Out All You Need to Know About Vaccines

Vaccination is important to keep kids healthy, but parents may not know some of the requirements

Kids Going Back to School? Find Out All You Need to Know About Vaccines
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August 16, 2016

Parents sending their kids off to school, either as new students or returning ones, may often feel as if they are drowning in an ocean of paperwork. However, it is important that they understand these forms, especially those relating to vaccinating their children.

Marion Gruber, Ph.D., director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), believes that vaccines are vital for getting kids off to a healthy start in school.

"Parents should know that vaccines protect children from many serious illnesses from infectious diseases," Gruber says. "The risk of being harmed by vaccines is much smaller than the risk of serious illness from infectious diseases."

According to Gruber, most of the side effects of vaccines, such as soreness and mild fever, are minor and do not last long. Serious reactions to vaccines are very rare, but they are possible.

It is through the use of vaccines that many childhood infectious diseases have been significantly reduced or, in a few cases, even eliminated altogether. For example, cases of diphtheria and measles occur much less often, and polio and smallpox have been eradicated in the U.S. Because of vaccinations, American children rarely suffer the destructive, often deadly effects of such diseases.

It is because of this very success, however, that many modern parents may not understand the true importance of vaccinations. They have not seen the diseases and their consequences, and they do not understand that the diseases could return if preventative action is not taken by vaccinating their children.

There are a number of steps that parents should take when their child is vaccinated.

First, parents should review the vaccine information sheets that the law requires the healthcare professional to give them. These sheets explain the benefits and risks of vaccination.

Second, they should discuss those benefits and risks with their healthcare professional, who can also explain the potential consequences of choosing not to vaccinate. Parents may be surprised to learn of the serious, even fatal, nature of infectious diseases such as measles.

Third, they should inform the healthcare professional of any preexisting conditions before their child is vaccinated, such as current illness or allergic or other adverse reactions to previous vaccinations. For instance, the professional needs to know if the child is allergic to eggs because eggs are used in the production of many influenza (flu) vaccines. Parents should also discuss with the provider which vaccines should and should not be given to children with weakened immune systems.

Finally, parents should report any adverse reactions or other problems related to vaccines to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is maintained by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information about the types of vaccines routinely given to children as well as answers to common questions, parents should see the FDA's online resource Vaccines for Children – A Guide for Parents and Caregivers.