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The Importance of Vaccinations for Your Child

According to the CDC, immunizations have had an enormous impact on improving the health of children in the United States. Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a child, a family, or community.

Some diseases that are prevented by vaccines, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, remain common in the United States. On the other hand, other potentially deadly diseases are no longer common in this country because of vaccines.

In this segment,  Jason Chan, MD discusses the importance of getting your children the vaccinations they need to avoid certain life threatening illnesses.
The Importance of Vaccinations for Your Child
Featured Speaker:
Jason Chan, MD
Jason Chan, MD is a Pediatrician with Aspirus Pediatric Clinic. He enjoys all aspects of pediatric care, including newborn care, wellness, nutrition, and adolescent care.

Learn more about Jason Chan, MD

Melanie Cole (Host): Some diseases that are prevented by vaccines, like pertussis, whooping cough, or chicken pox, remain slightly more common in the United States. On the other hand, other diseases are no longer common in this country because of vaccines. Immunizations have had an enormous impact on improving the health of children all over the United States. My guest today is Dr. Jason Chan. He’s a Pediatrician with Aspirus Pediatrics Clinic. Welcome to the show, Dr. Chan. How important, as a Pediatrician, do you want parents to feel that vaccines are?

Dr. Jason Chan (Guest): Vaccines are one of the most basic and one of the most important things that we do. Preventative care is far, far more effective than actually getting an illness and being treated down the road. Vaccines are very, very effective, and so effective that we don’t hear a lot about a lot of these diseases anymore.

Melanie: Well it certainly is amazing the effect that vaccines have had, but there are some controversies, Dr. Chan with vaccinations. What do you tell parents that ask you about the schedule, about the risk of vaccines, and that supposed like to autism?

Dr. Chan: Vaccines, overall, are exceedingly safe. They’re one of the most tested medications or products that we have in the world. Millions and millions of doses are given yearly, and the chances of the serious side effects are very, very rare. This is something that we actually do keep track of. There’s a registry for serious side effects from vaccines, and by and large, we don’t see them. There have been, in the past several years, controversies as far as a potential link between certain vaccines and autism. That all stems from a study that was done in the mid-90s that they said there was a relationship between the development of autism and a particular vaccine. Since that study, this is something, again, that everyone’s looked into. None of the studies since that have been able to replicate that connection. I think it’s important to note that just because something happened around the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a relationship to it. What we think happened was these kids were getting shot around the same time that lots of kids are actually being diagnosed with autism and that was part of where that came from.

Melanie: And just to be clear for listeners, this was a debunked study, yes? The guy even lost his license?

Dr. Chan: Correct. He’s no longer licensed. He was from England and yes, every single study since then has had the exact opposite results.

Melanie: So that’s great. Now let’s talk about some of the vaccinations that you really want parents to know, that it’s important to stick to the schedule, and have. Let’s start with birth, what are we giving our babies at birth?

Dr. Chan: The only vaccine that is recommended at birth is the hepatitis B vaccine. We know that moms can sometimes carry the hepatitis B germ. Sometimes they know it, and sometimes they don’t. We know that babies who are born to mothers who have hepatitis B, they’re at much, much higher risk for actually getting that disease, so that’s why we recommend giving that dose right at birth. It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does happen, it’s a pretty severe liver disease that can happen. The schedule is really important. The reasoning behind it is we want kids to get vaccinated and protected from these diseases before they’re at highest risk for this certain disease. It may seem like a lot, but there’s a reasoning behind it.

Melanie: Thank you for pointing that out. It’s important to note. Now, as they get into two, four, six months, what are the vaccines we’re seeing?

Dr. Chan: You start getting several more at this point. You do get another dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, which I mentioned at birth. I will say that pretty much all of the vaccines that we give, you do need more than one dose and that’s just to build the immunity of subsequent doses. For example, the first time you get the dose maybe you’re 50% protected, the next time it’s 70% and so on and so forth. You do get another dose of hepatitis B vaccine. You start getting your first diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis inoculation, your polio vaccine, your Haemophilus, your pneumonia shot. The last one is called the rotavirus vaccine, and that’s one that’s actually taken orally, so the babies actually drink that. It sounds like a lot but you really only get three injections and the one oral vaccine.

Melanie: So moving on to almost a year old, then what are they getting in their first year?

Dr. Chan: At their first year to 15 months visit, they’ll get their combination measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. They’ll also get their chicken pox vaccine. Parents often ask me about the chicken pox vaccine because they actually remember having the chicken pox when they were little. I had the chicken pox when I was little, and at that point, if someone had chicken pox parents would actually send their other kids over just to get it over with. They viewed it as a right of passage of childhood. But what we forget is, thousands of kids actually died from complications of the chicken pox every year. It wasn’t just an itchy, rashy illness. It was actually pretty serious for a certain number of kids. We actually do get the chicken pox vaccine now, and we have seen much, much less of it.

Melanie: Dr. Chan, and to stick with the chicken pox for one second, what do you tell parents that say to you, “But, my child’s immunity will be built up better if they actually get the chicken pox, rather than get this vaccine?”

Dr. Chan: That’s not entirely true. Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system. The question I often get is, “Don’t vaccines weaken it?” It doesn’t. It’s the exact opposite. If we think about the immune system as – and to make it simple, a rudimentary security guard for your body. At first, they’re not very good, and there’s two ways they can learn. One is the bad guys can come and rob the store, or you can get sick. The other way that the security guards can learn is, hey, we can pass around pictures of the bad guys and then when they come near, we can fight it off a lot quicker, and we won’t actually get as sick. That’s kind of how vaccines work. What we do is we expose the kids to the inactive pieces of the vaccine, so your immune system can respond to those inactive bits, so if you are exposed to it down the road, your body will know to fight them off immediately. You cannot get sick from the actual shot, it just stimulates the immune system, so you get the benefit of being exposed without the downside as far as being sick.

Melanie: What a great description, really easy to understand. Dr. Chan, as we move along into those toddler years when it seems like our children are susceptible to many different germs, what are you giving their kids?

Dr. Chan: In the toddler years, it does start slowing down, but they do get another dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine. The other thing that we start actually – this happens every year – is the flu vaccine. The flu actually changes every single year, so each year the vaccine has to change a little bit as well. You have a lasting immunity to it, but it’s just a new version each year. The flu vaccine you get every year after six months old.

Melanie: And then as we go 18 months to 18 years, as they slow down a little, what are the most important vaccines that we’re going to see?

Dr. Chan: Going into the middle school years, typically we do actually give them some slightly different, or newer vaccines. We actually update their tetanus shot, but part of that actually is called the pertussis vaccine as well. Pertussis is the germ that causes whooping cough, and that’s something that’s been around in the news lately because we’ve seen lots of outbreaks for it. I said earlier that you need more than one dose for a lot of vaccines and this is a good example of that. You do get four doses of the whooping cough vaccine early on, but we found that as kids got older, immunity started waning and we started seeing all these outbreaks, so that’s why they added the whooping cough vaccine around middle school age. The other thing that we recommend at that age is also the meningitis vaccine. Meningitis is a very serious infection of your brain and spinal cord. Again, it doesn’t happen very often, but it is very contagious, and it happens a lot of times in the middle school, high school, college years. If you were to get it, the chances of being very, very severely affected from it are very, very high, so a meningitis vaccine is another one that we give in the middle school years. The last one that we recommend at this age group is the HPV vaccine. HPV is the acronym for human papillomavirus, and it’s actually one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in women. We don’t just give it to the girls, we actually do give it to the boys as well because it doesn’t just cause cervical cancer, it causes oral and throat cancers, and can cause genital warts as well. It’s pretty impressive to me that in my lifetime there’s actually a vaccine that could protect against certain kinds of cancers. If you asked anyone, “Hey, would you rather get a series of two shots or cancer?” I think the answer would be pretty clear.

Melanie: Well, it certainly is amazing that we’re able to see that. Back to pertussis for just a second -- as a mother whose son did get it in middle school despite the vaccine, because he hadn’t had that fourth dose yet -- that’s a nasty business, so I like to tell parents, make sure you get these vaccines on that schedule because it is not fun to go through that cough and that illness with your child. It’s really, pretty scary. So, wrap it up for us, Dr. Chan because you've given us great information and certainly with the HPV vaccine, how important it is as a cancer vaccine now. Wrap up all these vaccines and what you tell parents every single day about the importance of vaccinations in our country.

Dr. Chan: Vaccines are exceedingly good at doing their job, and part of the reason why we still have to promote them is they're so good, you don’t see kids with polio anymore, or diphtheria anymore. They’re exceedingly good at their job. There’s also exceedingly safe. I would not ever recommend something that I would worry about having bad side effects to -- my kids all did their shots and did perfectly fine. I got my shots. They do a really great job. I think it’s really hard to get good information nowadays. The internet is basically the wild west when it comes to this sort of thing. One of the trusted sources that I like is the Centers for Disease Control website if you want to look stuff up on your own. The other thing that I encourage people to do is actually talk to their doctors about this. They know your child as well as anybody else and can discuss whatever concerns that you have. Believe it or not, that is what they do for a living.

Melanie: Such important information. Thank you so much, Dr. Chan, for being with us today. You’re listening to Aspirus Health Talk, and for more information, you can go to, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks, so much for listening.