Few things are more effective than vaccination when it comes to keeping
your family healthy. Even though the safety and
of being vaccinated are clearer than ever, some parents are still hesitant
take their child to get their shots.
To help alleviate any anxiety parents may feel, we asked Dr. Anna Baldino
some questions about vaccination:
How would you describe to a new parent how vaccines work?
Your body needs to build protection from certain organisms, say, tetanus or
pertussis. When you get a vaccine, you’re getting a substance that
stimulates the body to manufacture a defense against the infection. This
substance may be a modified version of the threatening microbe or a small
amount of material that is very similar to the microbe. These cause your
body to build an army of protection against the invader.
What would you say to parents who have reservations against vaccinating
It has been
measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine
, or the preservative it contains is not harmful. I immunized my children —
you practice what you preach, right? I felt very comfortable knowing that
these vaccines were safe. If they weren’t safe, we wouldn’t be giving them
to children, especially to our very young children.
Why do parents of babies have to be vaccinated as well?
It’s important that everybody do their share. We try to make sure that any
adults who live in a household with a newborn get the
tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis vaccine (Tdap)
vaccine to avoid spreading any of these serious infections to the newborn.
This includes, parents, grandparents, and anyone else who will come in
contact with their baby.
Babies get their first vaccines at two months, but they’re not yet fully
protected. It’s giving them some immunity — building their army — but
they’re not quite there yet. If the parents have done their job, all of the
siblings will be immunized. It’s the adults who are susceptible to becoming
What about older children? How can parents prepare them?
Basically, you talk to them. Try to explain that the vaccine is given to
keep you healthy, and it’s just going to be a little pinch, it won’t hurt
afterwards. And then maybe promise them something small after, like a
coloring book…we don’t want to break the bank.
Remember, just because they’re a child, they’re still a person, and you
want them to feel comfortable.
What has changed in vaccine technology since you started practicing in
We’ve got so many more vaccines. The
has changed dramatically — and that’s a good thing, because with each new
vaccine you see less and less of the illness it protects against. For
example, when I first went in to practice, in the mid-’80s, there was a
serious brain infection caused by haemophilus influenza bacteria. There was
no vaccine available at that time. I remember we had about six or seven
kids in the hospital with meningitis from this organism. That’s scary. Very
scary. Since the haemophilus influenza vaccine came out, known as the HiB
vaccine, there are hardly any cases now.
What are some common side effects of vaccination?
Certainly pain and swelling at the site are common. Maybe a little fever or
fussiness. But I wouldn’t expect a fever greater than 102-103, irritability
that you can’t console, lethargy or sleeping all the time.
Any of those reactions would be a concern and reason to call your
Just be gentle with the thigh or arm that was injected. Generally, within a
day or two, they’ll be back to their old, playful self.
Do you have any tips for helping kids overcome fear of needles?
I had lots of distractions for my patients. I mean, you name it, I’ve done
it. Sometimes we would distract the child by looking for Elmo around the
office. I always wore a little toy around my stethoscope to use as a
distraction for the exam and for the shot. It worked for the most part.
Please note: is provided for informational purposes and is not
meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician
or other medical professional. You should not use the information
contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or
disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect
that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care
About Dr. Anna Baldino
Dr. Anna Baldino
is a board-certified pediatrician. She graduated from Drexel
University with a B.S. in Nutrition Science, and from the
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine with a Doctor of
Osteopathy degree. She completed her pediatric residency at the
UMDNJ-Osteopathic School of Medicine. Before joining Independence
Blue Cross as a Medical Director in 2004, she was an Assistant
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, UMDNJ Department of Pediatrics.
As part of her duties, she provided medical care to migrant worker
children, to children at the local health departments, and to a
local school district. Dr. Baldino is a fellow of the AAP and ACOP.
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