Back-to-School Vaccinations: Packard Children’s Infectious-Disease Expert Has Tips for Parents

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With summer whizzing by, parents will soon be making those critical vaccination appointments prior to their children returning to the classroom. Vaccine expert Yvonne Maldonado, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Packard Children’s Hospital and a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, has key recommendations for parents prepping for the back-to-school season.

Question: What are the dangers posed when parents decide against vaccinating their children?

Dr. Maldonado: The major danger is that children will be exposed to diseases that the vaccines protect against. These are diseases that can be deadly, or can keep children at home and unable to go to school or after-school activities. And, they can be transmitted to other children as well.

Question: What are the most important vaccines for a child and why?

Dr. Maldonado: I believe the whole vaccine schedule is very important, not only to protect a child from infection during the first few years of life, but also as he or she grows. More information on immunization schedules can be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. These recommended vaccines are carefully reviewed by the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration several times per year. Follow your pediatrician’s recommended vaccine schedule to be sure that your child is up to date on all of his or her immunizations against these dangerous diseases — for example, measles and whooping cough — which can cause major sickness and death in children. It is a well-established schedule, which is published every year and is also built into all well-child visits.

Question: How safe are vaccines?

Dr. Maldonado: All U.S. vaccines are highly tested before they go to the FDA for approval, and then are given to the health-care providers that administer vaccines for children. We have a national and international checks-and-balances system that monitors the vaccines on a daily basis, ensuring their safety. However, many vaccines do have short-term side effects, and they are clearly posted on the CDC’s website as required by law. Tenderness, redness and swelling at the site of the injection are the most common side effects for more than 90 percent of vaccines on the market. These are minor side effects, and can occur in approximately 5 to 30 percent of all vaccinated patients.

Question: In preparing for these vaccinations, what steps should parents be taking now?

Dr. Maldonado: The best thing is to make appointments for your child’s vaccines during the summer and complete the vaccine schedule before school starts, especially for children going to pre-school and kindergarten. Also, be sure to establish a good relationship with your child’s primary-care doctor so that they can track your child’s progress.

Click to learn more about Yvonne Maldonado, MD.

About Packard Children’s

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford is an internationally recognized 311-bed hospital, research center and leading regional medical network providing a full complement of services for the health of children and expectant mothers. Together, our world-class Stanford Medicine doctors, nurses and staff deliver innovative, nurturing care and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty. Packard Children’s is annually ranked as one of the nation’s finest by U.S. News & World Report and the only Northern California children’s hospital with specialty programs ranked in the U.S. News Top 10. Learn more about the Packard Children’s Health Alliance at PCHA.org; explore our hospital expansion at growing.lpch.org; and find our full range of preeminent programs at lpch.org. Like us on Facebook, watch us on YouTube and follow us on Twitter.