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On the Grow - Immunization Myths

By Bryan L. Burke, Jr., MD, FAAP
Arkansas Children's Hospital, UAMS Department of Pediatrics

Parents often ask "How can I keep my child healthy?" Fundamentally, parents must provide food, clothing, shelter and love. After that, no parent can do anything more important than making sure their child gets their baby shots on time. The diseases that are prevented are severe. These diseases can lead to permanent brain damage and death. These diseases still exist. No good treatment exists for any of these diseases once a child becomes ill. Therefore prevention - in the form of getting all the baby shots and getting them on time - becomes very important.

Most of the negative reports parents have heard about these baby shots are wrong. There are myths about the problems these shots can cause. Some of the more common myths are:

1. The measles vaccine causes autism.

Amazingly, this myth persists despite all the facts that prove it wrong. No evidence exists that supports it. Every good study ever done proves it wrong. The evidence supporting red shirts as a cause of autism is just as good as the evidence that the measles vaccine causes autism! Of course, no evidence exists for either one.

2. Baby shots will make my child sick.

Serious reactions to baby shots are very uncommon. Baby shots can make a child uncomfortable. The shot itself will hurt. Some children will have a variety of minor problems after getting the baby shots. The most common problems are fever - usually mild, soreness where the shot was given, fussiness, skin rash, decreased appetite and trouble sleeping. These problems usually last no more than one to two days. In more than 25 years of practice, I have never seen a child have a serious reaction to a baby shot. However, I have seen many children seriously harmed, even to the point of death, because they did not get their shots on time.

3. Too many shots at one time will make my child sick.

This myth actually harms children. Delaying the time that the shots are given puts a child at risk of getting one of these serious diseases. Even worse, the younger a child gets one of these diseases, the sicker he gets. Sicker children have worse results. These diseases represent a "Hall of Fame" - or perhaps a "Hall of Shame" - of the worst diseases to ever make kids sick.

These diseases are extremely dangerous. Baby shots work well and are very safe. How do I answer the question "How can I keep my child healthy?" I advise parents to have their doctor give the child his baby shots as early as possible.

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