August 10, 2017

By Jennifer Bihm

Assistant Editor


August is National Immuniza­tion Awareness Month and with the 2017-2018 school year approaching pediatricians want to remind parents about the importance of vaccinations. While the internet makes parents privy to more information, unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation made available when it comes to the immunization process, according to Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center pediatrician, Dr. Shari Directo.The L.A. Watts Times spoke to Directo earlier this week about the importance of vaccinations, side effects, immunization schedules and costs.

Disease can quickly spread among groups of children who are unvaccinated, according to medical experts, and the child's body may not be strong enough to fight the disease. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent, such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. In fact, the flu causes more deaths each year than any other vaccine-preventable disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“I want to caution parents that there is a lot of misinformation online, that isn’t really validated by scientific studies,” Directo said.

One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. Re­search shows that thimerosal does not cause autism spectrum disorder, according to medical experts at the CDC.

In fact, they said,  a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies  that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and ASD in children.

“Between 1999 and 2001, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines,” according to the CDC website

“This was done as part of a broader national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposure in children before studies were conducted that determined that thimerosal was not harmful. It was done as a precaution. Currently, the only childhood vaccines that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. Thimerosal-free alternatives are also available for flu vaccine.

“Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD as well. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD…”

Ideally, parents should start vaccines at birth, the first being for Hepatitis B, Directo explained. Subsequent shots should be received at two, four and six months for prevention diseases like diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (visit for full immunization schedule). Boosters are recommended for those beginning school at about age 4 or 5, not again until age 11 and then at 16. Flu shots should be received annually.

Vaccinations may cost anywhere from $30 to about $100. However, most health insurances cover immunizations, which are considered a preventative procedure. Also, Directo said, parents who may have to pay out of pocket can find programs that can assist them with finding immunizations at low or no cost.

Most children feel fine and go right back to their usual routine after immunization, say medical experts. Others have mild reactions, such as a sore arm, swelling at the site of the shot, or a low fever. Some babies may be fussy or sleepy afterward.

 Serious side effects are very rare. Parents should keep in mind that the risks of having mild side effects from the shots are minimal compared to the risk of getting seriously ill from diseases that can be prevented. In case of possible allergic reactions, patients are monitored for about 15 minutes after procedures.

“I would really encourage [parents] to speak up and ask their pediatrician,” Directo saidl

“Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing disease. A lot of people have never even seen a case of measles or pertussis because they are not even common anymore. But, unfortunately sometimes with unvaccinated populations or if there is any international [unvaccinated] in your community there could sometimes be outbreaks.”

Category: Health