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Thinking about skipping shots? Doctors debunk those rumors

Dad holding grimacing baby in doctor's office, as a nurse gives baby a shot.

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What are benefits of vaccines?
2. Are there side effects?
3. How best to research it?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy children get vaccinations on schedule, but some parents opt out for many different reasons:

  • Concerns about health risks, such as autism, which have been debunked
  • Exercising their constitutional rights
  • Religious reasons
  • Questions about side effects

However, parents who choose not to vaccinate often have a harder time finding a pediatrician.

“An unvaccinated child that comes into the waiting room puts our newborn patients and medically vulnerable patients at risk,” explains Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, a board-certified pediatrician and president of Palm Beach Pediatric Society in Delray Beach. “This is why many pediatricians won’t provide care to unvaccinated children."

The Benefits of Vaccines

Childhood vaccinations help prevent children and medically vulnerable people from getting deadly diseases, like polio, measles and whooping cough. It also reduces the likelihood that viruses like the flu and COVID-19 will cause serious illness or death.

“The data is clear. Shots save lives,” says Dr. Bradley Bradford, president and founding pediatrician of Pediatrics by the Sea in Delray Beach. “It’s the safest and most cost-effective thing pediatricians do. It works, and we know it.”

Vaccines Side Effects

Some parents choose to delay their child’s vaccinations or space them out instead of following their pediatrician’s immunization schedule in an effort to avoid side effects, but Dr. Fox advises against this.

“Vaccinations have not been studied this way,” she says. “We don’t know how the immune system will respond. We don’t know if the child is getting the protection they need. The recommended schedules are backed by research. Spacing them apart is essentially playing Russian roulette.”

Reliable Vaccine Sources

It’s natural for parents to seek out information about their children’s health care, but it’s important to learn from reputable resources because the internet and social media are rife with misinformation. The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and resources provided by renowned healthcare facilities like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center, are a great place to start. 

You should also discuss your concerns with your family pediatrician. “It’s our job as pediatricians to give parents information to make the best decision for their child,” Dr. Fox-Levine emphasizes. “Vaccines prevent illness and death. Period.”

• Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, president, Palm Beach Pediatric Society
• Dr. Bradley Bradford, president, Pediatrics by the Sea

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Related resources

    • Health
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    Florida Vaccines for Children Program

    Provides free vaccines for children up to age 18 who qualify for eligibility through the Florida Department of Health

    877-888-7468 Website
    • Health
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    Florida SHOTS

    State Health Online Tracking System – free statewide, centralized immunization registry that helps parents, health-care providers and schools track immunization records

    877-888-7468 Website
    • Health
    • Parenting

    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Vaccine and immunization information, including schedules, a tracking system, lists, fact sheets, books

    800-232-4636 Website