Ask the pediatrician: Vaccine Q&A

April 6, 2018 Deborah J. Harper, MD


A pediatrician answers common questions about childhood immunization


If you’re a parent, you’ve probably read about the “controversy” surrounding vaccines for children. And you probably have friends and family members weighing in on your decision. Providence Health & Services supports the pediatric vaccination recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the health system encourages parents to learn as much as possible about vaccines and their benefits and risks.


Here are some of the questions Providence providers hear most often.


Q: How many diseases are vaccinated against in childhood?

A: Fourteen, including measles, polio and pertussis (whooping cough).


Q: Why do we start giving vaccines so early?

A: The recommended schedule for vaccination is designed to protect children before they are exposed to dangerous infectious diseases.


Q: What about doing an alternative schedule?

A: There are no known benefits to following an alternative immunization schedule. When you follow a schedule that spreads out or skips vaccines, you risk your child being exposed to illness without the protection of the vaccine.


Q: Does a vaccine give my child the disease?

A: No. Vaccines help the body safely develop immunity. They imitate an infection to do this, but they do not cause illness.


Q: What side effects should I expect?

A: Most side effects are minor—they include fever as well as redness and swelling at the injection site. Serious side effects are rare, but if you notice something in your child that concerns you, call your child’s doctor.


Q: Don’t vaccines cause autism?

A: No. There is no scientific evidence to support a link between vaccines and autism.


Q: Where can I learn more?

A: The CDC is a great place to start: If you have specific questions, your child’s pediatrician is a great resource, too.


Keeping your child healthy starts with regular visits to your pediatrician. Find a Providence pediatrician near you.


Deborah J. Harper, MD, is a pediatrician at Providence Valley Young People’s Clinic.


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