Should I Immunize My Baby?: Weighing the risks and benefits of vaccination

It takes 2-month-old Amanda only a few seconds to realize she has received her first vaccination. Ouch! With her loud wail, parents wince. As the pediatric nurse soothingly says, "It's all over," Amanda's dad gently wipes away her tears.

For most babies, immunizations bring only fleeting discomfort, but for others, severe reactions can result?in rare cases, disability or death. How can parents know they're making a wise decision?

Since every vaccine carries both risks and benefits, it's smart to become familiar with current controversies and contraindications to specific immunizations prior to your baby's 2-month checkup. In this way, you'll be better able to make an informed choice.

Vaccines: Pro and Con
Four types of immunizations are routinely given to children under 2: DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus); OPV (oral polio vaccine); HIB (hemophilus influenza B); MMR (measles, mumps and rubella, or German measles). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following schedule (with additional vaccines later):

  • 2 months: DPT, OPV, HIB
  • 4 months: DPT, OPV, HIB
  • 6 months: DPT, HIB
  • 15 months: MMR (In measles-prevalent areas, mmr may be given at 12 months; consult your child's doctor about what is recommended in your area.)

Those who support routine immunization in infancy?including the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the United States Public Health Service?believe the benefit of immunity to specific diseases clearly outweighs the risks, especially since severe reactions appear rare.

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May 25

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