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The Importance Of Pediatric Vaccinations

Posted on March 15, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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It’s probably an understatement to say the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on vaccines. For some parents, it has underscored their importance. 

“The pandemic has inspired a significant portion of parents to get their kids vaccinated, whether for the flu or COVID-19,” says Jordan Kridler, M.D., a pediatrician at Henry Ford Health. “They've learned about herd immunity and why vaccines are essential for our health.” 

But myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines have made other parents more hesitant to get their children vaccinated—including routine childhood vaccinations for illnesses like measles, mumps and whooping cough. 

“Recent measles and polio outbreaks in the United States are due to low vaccination rates,” says Dr. Kridler. “Since many of these diseases are no longer prevalent, some parents aren’t familiar with them. As a result, some parents think the risk of vaccination outweighs the risk of the actual diseases.”

But polio can cause paralysis, whooping cough can cause babies to stop breathing, measles can cause severe inflammation of the brain and they all can cause death. Immunizations have greatly helped to increase our life expectancy. Vaccines, says Dr. Kridler, “are one of the most successful public health interventions ever.” 

How Vaccines Work

All vaccines are preventative treatments and can be made several different ways. Regardless of the type of vaccine, they all prompt the immune system to create antibodies to protect us from a certain disease. That way, if we’re exposed to it in the future, we can successfully fight off the disease. Common types of vaccines include: 

  • mRNA vaccines, which teach the body to create part of a virus’s genetic code, such as a protein. Then, recognizing that protein as foreign, the immune system produces antibodies to fight it off. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines.    
  • Viral vector vaccines, which also teach the body to make a virus’s protein. This type of vaccine uses a virus that doesn’t cause illness to transport the instructions to our cells. The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and the Ebola vaccine are both viral vector vaccines. 
  • Live-attenuated vaccines, which contain a live virus that has been weakened so it won’t infect us, but still allows the body to trigger a protective immune response. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and chickenpox vaccines are live-attenuated vaccines.
  • Inactivated vaccines, which contain a dead virus that has most of its genetic code intact, allowing the body to recognize it as foreign and produce an immune response. The whooping cough, flu and hepatitis A vaccines are inactivated vaccines.   

Vaccine Myth Busting

Take it from a pediatrician—rumors about vaccines causing long-term health effects just aren't true. Here, Dr. Kridler debunks several pervasive vaccine myths. 

  1. Vaccines do not cause autism. This myth has been ongoing for years—but it couldn’t be further from the truth. “The myth stemmed from the MMR vaccine, but it was proven to be completely false,” says Dr. Kridler. “Vaccines do not cause autism. Period.”   
  2. Vaccines do not infect you with the virus. “I often hear people ask, ‘will the flu vaccine give my child the flu?’ But it’s an inactivated virus so it can’t give you the flu,” says Dr. Kridler. That said, children with weakened immune systems should not receive live-attenuated vaccines. 
  3. Vaccines do not affect your DNA. The rumor that mRNA vaccines can alter our DNA is false. mRNA teaches our cells to make a virus’s protein, but it doesn’t get anywhere close to our DNA and it disintegrates quickly after “sending” the instructions.  
  4. Vaccines work, even if you contract the virus. Vaccines might not always prevent you from contracting a disease—for example with COVID-19 and the flu—but they will lessen the severity of your sickness and help prevent you from landing in the hospital.   
  5. Altering your child’s immunization schedule isn't a good idea. Dr. Kridler discourages parents who may want to space out their children’s vaccines. “Some parents are worried about their children getting a few vaccines at once, but these schedules have been carefully created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” says Dr. Kridler. “It is easier on a child’s immune system to get certain vaccines all at once, rather than being taxed week after week with a delayed vaccination schedule. In addition, alternative schedules increase a child’s vulnerability to vaccine-preventable diseases.”  
  6. Routine childhood boosters are necessary—and they’re formulated with kids in mind. “Some parents ask why their young kids have to get so many booster shots, and it’s because we’re gradually introducing babies to the vaccines to help them develop immunity,” says Dr. Kridler. “Immunity wanes over time, so in order to maintain those protective antibodies, we need additional doses.”   

When in doubt? It’s important for parents to have thorough conversations with their child’s pediatrician to better understand the recommended vaccinations, along with their risks and benefits.


To find a pediatrician at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Jordan Kridler is a board-certified pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Royal Oak.

Categories : ParentWell
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