US Pharm. 2021;(46)8:15-16.

Preventing Contagious Childhood Illnesses

Adhering to the recommended childhood vaccination schedule remains the best method for preventing contagious childhood illnesses and protecting the health of children. Those ranging from newborn to age 18 years are vaccinated to ensure the most complete disease protection possible. Although even full vaccination will not prevent every potential childhood sickness, it does reduce the likelihood of contracting most problematic and even potentially fatal contagious diseases. Furthermore, serious side effects from vaccines remain extremely rare, varying from about one in 100,000 to one in 1 million immunizations, depending on the specific vaccine.

Vaccines Reduce the Risk of Dangerous Infections

Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies, or special proteins that fight off viruses. Once formed by the immune system, an antibody is rarely forgotten, and the body can make it again if needed. Therefore, immunization is typically lifelong, and it is why people usually contract diseases like chickenpox only once in their lifetime. Some viral infections—like colds and the flu—are caused by many different viruses, with new ones appearing each year. For these viruses, scientists create new vaccines every year, requiring annual revaccination for continued protection.

When administered properly, the risk of severe adverse reactions from vaccines is extremely low. Immunizations should be given according to the age schedule, as some small children may not have a robust enough immune system to handle certain vaccines. In some cases, such as having a weakened immune system from certain diseases or treatments like chemotherapy, children may not be able to receive vaccinations at all.

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions Are Rare

In rare cases, individuals may be allergic to some vaccine ingredients. The most common example is the egg component used in many flu vaccines. In these situations, children may receive vaccines made with alternative ingredients instead. Physicians and pharmacists should question patients or their parents about possible allergies before administering immunizations. It is not uncommon for a child to develop a mild local reaction to a vaccine, usually a red, sore spot at the injection site. Certain vaccines may also cause a brief, low-grade fever and mild diarrhea. Children with side effects that last more than a day, or become severe, should seek medical attention.

In much less than 1% of all vaccinations, severe reactions or anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is an intense allergic reaction, and symptoms include a rapid or irregular heartbeat, swelling of the face and throat, unconsciousness, and trouble breathing. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, so call 911 immediately if it is suspected.

For the COVID-19 vaccination, cases of a rare form of heart inflammation, called pericarditis, have been reported in males aged 12 to 29 years. The symptoms of pericarditis include chest pain, fever, fatigue, and trouble breathing and usually develop within days of the second vaccination dose.

Vaccinations Are Given According to a CDC Schedule

Currently, all vaccines are administered by injection. The TABLE illustrates the primary vaccination schedule for all children as issued by the CDC. Many exceptions to the schedule may occur based on existing medical conditions and missed immunizations.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.