What's behind the "safe shot" approach to vaccines?
The debates about vaccinations remain charged and many parents still question the safety of “so many” vaccines. Learn about the safe shot approach, designed to help prevent -- or at least minimize -- any adverse vaccine reactions for your children.
One of the first things you will receive at the pediatrician's office is a vaccination schedule for your child. What if it seems like just too many shots? What if you believe in the strength of vaccines but are still worried about adverse vaccine reactions? Learn more about the safe shot approach to vaccinations to give yourself peace of mind, and become empowered to make educated decisions about what vaccines are right for your little one -- and when.
The safe shot approach to vaccines
If you choose to vaccinate your child, Lauren Feder, M.D., the author of The Parents' Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations, recommends using a four-step safe shot strategy to educate yourself and help prevent or minimize possible adverse reactions following a vaccine.
While the safe shot strategy does not eliminate or exclude any particular vaccines from your child's vaccination schedule, the method does ask questions that will help a parent make the best choice about their child's vaccination schedule. Feder outlines the approach below. It is applicable to vaccinations for both children and adults:
1. Be familiar with the disease. Answer the following questions:
- What is the disease?
- Are there any complications?
- How is it treated?
- How common is it in the area where you live? In your country?
- What is the risk of your child contracting the disease?
2. Be informed about the vaccine.
- What are the benefits of the shot?
- What are the risks?
3. What is the standard vaccine schedule?
- Know which shots will be coming up at your child's next doctor visit.
4. Is this the right time to give the shot?
- If your child is ill, delay the shot until better.
- If your child has chronic conditions that might affect his or her immune response, talk to your practitioner before the vaccination.
- If your child has recently taken antibiotics, steroids or other strong medications that weaken the immune system, wait several weeks until stabilized.
- Check your child's health before and after the shot. Contact your physician if your child shows signs of agitation, discomfort or serious illness.
Taking additional vaccination precautions
"With more people recognizing that there can be side effects following a shot, parents are interested in taking measures to prevent any health problems," says Feder. "If you decide to vaccinate, make sure your child is in good health."
The National Vaccine Information Center has prepared a list of questions that they recommend parents ask themselves before their children have any vaccination:
- Is my child sick right now?
- Has my child had a bad reaction to a vaccination before?
- Does my child have a personal or family history of vaccine reactions, convulsions or neurological disorders, severe allergies or immune system disorders?
- Do I know if my child is at high risk of reacting?
- Do I have full information on the vaccine's side effects?
- Do I know how to identify a vaccine reaction?
- Do I know how to report a vaccine reaction?
- Do I know the vaccine manufacturer's name and lot number?
"Most pediatricians follow the standard, routine immunization schedule beginning at birth," says Feder. If you have very strong feelings about your child's vaccination schedule and if you want to use the safe shot approach, be sure to interview several pediatricians so that you can find the one whose philosophy meshes most closely with your own beliefs and wants for your child's health.