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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?

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthy children get vaccinations on schedule, some parents opt out.

Some are still concerned that autism is linked to the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Some want to exercise their constitutional rights or have religious reasons. Others still question the data even though numerous research studies confirm the safety and benefits of childhood vaccinations.

“While there is easy access to immunization information on the internet and social media, they’re not the best sources,” says Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, pediatrician and president of Palm Beach Pediatric Society in Delray Beach. “There is a lot of misinformation out there that is not supported by data, and it can be difficult to interpret the research. It’s our job as pediatricians to give parents the information and help them make the best decision for their child.”


Doctors recommend vaccines because they’re proven to prevent deadly diseases, such as polio, measles and whooping cough.

“The data is clear. Shots save lives,” says Dr. Bradley Bradford, president and founding pediatrician of Pediatrics by the Sea in Delray Beach. “Of all the things we do in pediatrics, immunization is the most cost-effective and safe. It works, and we know it.”

Palm Beach County resident Kristine Gobbo is a mother of twins. Before giving birth, she read articles on vaccinations and how best to give them to newborns and toddlers.

“My pediatrician met with me and went over a suggested vaccination schedule,” Gobbo says. “She gave me options to delay the number of shots the twins would receive at any certain visit. In the end, I felt confident her recommended schedule would work for our family.”

Dr. Fox is a mother of two boys and understands it can be scary to trust your doctor to provide the best medical recommendation for your children.

“As a parent, I understand it can be overwhelming,” she says. “We constantly see information on the negative side effects for vaccines, but I feel so strongly about immunization. Vaccines prevent illness and death. Period.”


Gobbo’s biggest concern was possible side effects. “I noticed a slightly higher temperature on a few occasions and some swelling around the injection area for a short period of time,” she says. “Besides those two minor issues, all immunizations went as planned.”

Dr. Bradford doesn’t deny side effects can happen. “That’s not surprising with any intervention, including taking vitamins,” he says. “Can a child get a fever from a shot? Yes, but the amount of lives saved and protected from morbidity because of immunization is huge.”

Some parents may choose to delay their child’s vaccinations or space them apart instead of following their pediatrician’s immunization schedule, 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. There is scientific research behind the recommended schedules. Spacing them apart is essentially playing Russian roulette.”


Naturally, parents want to research information related to their children’s health care, whether it’s how to deal with their first cold or how to handle vaccinations. Read a variety of opinions and talk to health professionals before making decisions. This will help you choose the best path for your family and raise your confidence.

Be aware that you may have a harder time finding a pediatrician if you choose not to vaccinate.

“A child who has not been vaccinated that comes into the waiting room puts our newborn patients and patients with chronic conditions at risk,” Dr. Fox says. “This is a major reason nationwide that pediatricians will not provide care to children whose parents don’t vaccinate.”


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


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Related resources

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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
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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
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    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