Ask the pediatrician: childhood vaccinations

Ask the pediatrician: childhood vaccinations

As a parent, you want the best for your child. Their health is a top priority, which is why it’s important to stay up to date on one of the best tools you have to keep them healthy – childhood vaccinations.  

Information about vaccines can be confusing and complex. We asked Dr. Anju I. Bradford, a pediatrician at Aurora BayCare, some common questions about childhood vaccinations, so you can make informed decisions about your child’s health.  

What are childhood vaccinations?  

Vaccinations are an important part of your child’s preventive care. They protect children from potentially life-threatening diseases at a time when they’re most vulnerable.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that babies and children receive the following vaccines:   

  • DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)  
  • Flu shot protects against influenza  
  • HepA and HepB protect against hepatitis A and B  
  • Hib protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b, which can cause serious complications, such as meningitis  
  • HPV protects against cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus (HPV)  
  • IPV protects against polio  
  • MMR protects against measles, mumps and rubella  
  • PCV protects against pneumococcal disease  
  • RV protects against rotavirus  
  • Varicella protects against chickenpox  
How do vaccines work?  

Vaccines teach your immune system how to recognize and defend against a disease. Each vaccine contains a small amount of a weakened or dead virus or bacteria. By imitating an infection but not enough to make you actually sick, the vaccine triggers your body’s natural defenses, which causes the immune system to produce antibodies that fight this virus or bacteria if you are exposed to it later in life.

Vaccines are commonly administered through injections, but certain types can be given through an inhalable mist or in a pill or liquid form to swallow.  

Are there any side effects after a vaccine?  

While many don’t experience significant side effects from vaccinations, this can vary from person to person. The most common side effects are generally mild and are a sign that your body is building immunity and protection. 

Side effects include:  

  • Arm soreness  
  • Redness, soreness or swelling at the injection site  
  • Fatigue  
  • Mild fever  
  • Fussiness  
  • Minor headache  
  • Muscle aches  
  • Nausea  

Home remedies, such as a cold compress or over-the-counter pain relievers, can help ease symptoms.  

Are vaccines safe?  

Vaccines are safe and held to very high safety and testing standards. Millions of adults and children are vaccinated every year to protect themselves and vulnerable loved ones around them. The benefits that vaccines provide largely outweigh potential rare side effects. In fact, your child is more at risk if they are not vaccinated against serious illnesses and diseases.  

The typical immune response or what many consider a side effect of a vaccine go away on their own within days. If your child is exposed to a virus like whooping cough and they aren’t vaccinated, they are at higher risk than vaccinated children to potentially suffer from complications that can lead to life-changing health problems. 

When does your child need a vaccine?  

It’s important to follow the CDC immunization schedule for your child. A list of vaccines for children from birth to 18 years old is updated every year and is designed to help protect them most during months when they’re more likely to be exposed to a disease.  

See the CDC’s vaccination schedules for children:  

A great time to check-in on your child’s immunization schedule is at their annual exam. Some vaccines are required for school, which will be reviewed in a school physical. Seasonal vaccinations, like the flu shot, can be easily scheduled with your child’s provider.   

If your child misses a vaccine, don’t worry. You can speak with your provider about an alternate schedule to get your child caught up.  

What if your child is afraid of needles?  

It’s normal for kids to be hesitant or afraid of vaccines due to needles. Research shows that about two-thirds of children experience needle phobia.   

What can you do if your child is anxious about getting a shot?   

  • Be honest and clear with your child about what to expect. Getting a vaccine with a needle can hurt, but it will be quick.   
  • Use a calming tone to help your child relax during their appointment. If you are calm, it really helps your child as well.  
  • Bring a favorite toy or blanket from home to help your child feel less anxious.  
  • Talk to your child through the vaccine to help distract them. A song, favorite story or memory can help ease them.  

Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

Related Posts


Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Macaire Douglas
Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas, health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist and writer with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and previously worked as a content director for a lifestyle publication. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening and keeping up on pop culture.