Keep kids healthy, safe with recommended vaccines

August 9, 2021 Swedish Health Team

Key takeaways:

  • State law requires children to have certain vaccines to enter school or daycare.
  • Research continues to prove that vaccines are safe and effective in children.
  • Swedish pediatrician, Jacqueline Hunziker, M.D., weighs in on required and recommended vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 and up.

[3 MIN READ]

Students across the state are preparing for a new school year. And parents are busy going over checklists and making sure children have everything they need to be ready for a successful year:

Pencils? Check.

Notebooks? Check.

First day of school outfit? Check.

Up-to-date vaccines and required health forms? Wait – what?

That’s right. The new school year is the best time to make sure your child has all their recommended vaccines for their age. In fact, state law requires children to have certain vaccines to enter school. That goes for little ones entering daycare or preschool and students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Washington state requires students to have the following vaccines for school entry:

  • Hepatitis B (HepB)
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTap or Tdap)
  • Poliovirus (IPV)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (VAR)

(The Centers of Disease Control, or CDC, and pediatricians also recommend other vaccines throughout childhood. See the complete list here.)

Keeping kids up-to-date on all their recommended vaccines not only keeps them healthy but helps prevent major outbreaks in the community.

“Vaccines have played an important role in our society eliminating very serious diseases, like polio, smallpox; and getting much better control on illnesses such as measles,” explains Swedish pediatrician, Jacqueline Hunziker, M.D. “Keeping kids up-to-date on all their recommended vaccines not only keeps them healthy but helps prevent major outbreaks in the community.”

Dr. Hunziker shares her insight on why vaccines are important, separates vaccine facts from fiction, and discusses why all eligible children should get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Separating vaccine fact from fiction

It’s understandable why some parents are hesitant to have their children vaccinated. There is a lot of information out there about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Parents want to make the best decision for their child. That’s difficult when faced with conflicting information.

“It can be overwhelming for parents to figure out fact from fiction when it comes to vaccines,” acknowledges Dr. Hunziker. “Parents want to make the best decision for their child. That’s difficult when faced with conflicting information.”

The first step Dr. Hunziker takes when evaluating the latest research on vaccines is to identify the experts in the field.

“When it comes to vaccines, professionals who have studied, trained and researched in the vaccine field are the experts,” she states. “When you are doing your own research, be sure to investigate any claims you read and validate using multiple reliable sources.”

Dr. Hunziker encourages parents to ask their child’s pediatrician about any questions they may have. Medical professionals can help put context around medical studies and point out other reputable sources of information, such as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC.

Here, Dr. Hunziker shares common facts about vaccines.

Vaccines boost immune systems

Vaccines not only help prevent serious illness in children, but they also boost your child’s immune system. They help your child’s immune system learn how to fight against many different diseases so that if, or when, they are exposed to germs that cause an illness like rotavirus, influenza or chicken pox, they’re ready and able to fight them off.

Fast fact: The CDC estimates that the vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2018 will prevent 419 million illnesses and 26.8 million hospitalizations.

Vaccines are safe

Vaccinations go through a rigorous process to ensure they are safe and effective. This is true even after it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a national reporting system for tracking side effects and safety related to any vaccine. Individuals and physicians who experience or observe any adverse effects are encouraged to report them so that trends and concerning side effects can be evaluated and used to halt use or spur additional research.

“We continue to study and learn about the safety of our vaccines,” says Dr. Hunziker. “This entire process assures our vaccinations are safe and effective for children – and should provide great peace of mind to parents.”

Fast fact: The development of a vaccine takes several volunteers and extensive research, especially when evaluating safety for children.  

Vaccines are not linked to autism

Nearly 23 years ago, a study was published in The Lancet that claimed a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism in children. Reporters and celebrities quickly jumped on the story and were, understandably, outraged.

However, that study was critically flawed for many reasons, including that those researchers picked and chose from data that would support their claim. The Lancet eventually retracted the article in 2008. Still, the uproar continued. Some parents continue to be concerned that vaccines are linked to autism, despite overwhelming research that has found no connection between the two.

Fast fact: Regular and intensive research continues to prove that vaccines do not cause autism

COVID-19 vaccines and kids

This school year, parents aren’t just grappling with regularly scheduled vaccines. They may also be debating whether or not their child can or should get the COVID-19 vaccination. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has emergency use authorization for children ages 12 and older. Approval for children ages 5 and up is expected to come this fall. With the Delta variant causing a rise in cases and hospitalizations, experts encourage all who can get vaccinated to do so.

The COVID-19 vaccine protects them from COVID-19 and its variants, like Delta which is affecting more children and teens. It also builds community protection.

“I recommend that all children ages 12 and older get the COVID-19 vaccine,” states Dr. Hunziker. “It protects them from COVID-19 and its variants, like Delta which is affecting more children and teens. It also builds community protection so that we can continue to move closer to normalcy in schools and life.”

Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine tend to be mild for adults and children. The most common side effects include:

  • Tenderness at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Tiredness

“There have been rare cases of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction. The CDC recommends vaccination sites monitor patients for 15 minutes after vaccination or 30 minutes if the individual has a history of anaphylaxis,” says Dr. Hunziker.

“Still, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective against what can be a very serious illness, even among young people,” she finishes.

Schedule your, your child’s COVID-19 vaccine today

Select Swedish clinics are now offering Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to patients ages 12 and up. Clinics include Pine Lake Universal Response Clinic, Downtown Primary Care and Mill Creek Primary Care. Learn more and schedule a vaccination appointment here. 

Or to locate a vaccination site near you, visit the Washington State Department of Health Vaccine Locator website or call the Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127 and press #. 

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Find a doctor

When it’s time to schedule your child’s recommended and required vaccines, be sure to talk to your pediatrician. You can schedule an in-person visit or use Swedish Virtual Care that connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a pediatrician, caregiver or advanced care practitioner, you can use our provider directory.

Find out the latest updates on how we’re handling COVID-19.

Related resources

Stay up to date with vaccines

People ages 12+ now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

5 COVID-19 vaccine myths and the facts

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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