Vaccinations: the answers to 3 BIG doubts of parents

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Marie-Ange Demory
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"Some infectious diseases seem to have disappeared and parents may wonder why it is necessary to continue vaccinating their children. Some parents think that the disappearance in our country of infectious diseases such as polio or the significant reduction of diseases such as measles are due only to improved socio-economic conditions.



In reality this would never have happened without the vaccinations. Higher living standards and sanitation alone, unfortunately, cannot guarantee protection from infectious diseases. If vaccination were to be stopped, the share of unprotected subjects would increase and even the occasional introduction of viruses and bacteria could lead to outbreaks of polio or other serious diseases that have now disappeared in Del Paese and in other parts of the world. . For this we must continue to vaccinate our children ".



Thus the councilor for Health of Veneto, Luca Coletto, addresses parents in the information brochure "Vaccinations doubts and answers": a tool designed to answer the questions and concerns that very often put mothers and fathers in difficulty when approaching the fateful age of pediatric vaccinations.


"I am there are essentially three questions that parents ask us most often"explains Giuseppina Napoletano, head of the Infectious Disease Prophylaxis Office of the Prevention Department of the ULSS 20 in Verona." They have to do with those doubts that most fuel anxieties and fears and sometimes cause a delay or even a refusal to submit one's own child to vaccinations. This is why we try to listen to their voice and create, through various tools, opportunities for discussion and dialogue with parents ".

In this article

  • Aren't children too young for vaccines?
  • Doesn't it overload the immune system?
  • Do Vaccines Cause Dangerous Adverse Reactions?
  • Vaccines: victims of their success

1) Are children too young for vaccinations?

The vaccines they work by stimulating the immune system, the body's natural defense system, so that it produces antibodies capable of preventing a disease from taking over. However, some believe that the baby's immune system is still immature.



A question raised by those who decide not to vaccinate their children concerns their age: is the immune system of newborns able to withstand the administration of vaccines?

"The immune system of newborns is ready to respond to agents that can carry diseases" states Napoletano. "If this were not the case, contact with the outside world, after birth, would be extremely dangerous and everyone would fall ill very easily, which fortunately does not happen.

The immune system of newborns is able to respond adequately to the administration of vaccines.

While delaying the start of the vaccination cycle means extending the period in which the child is not protected against certain diseases, such as whooping cough and meningitis, which can be very serious in the first year of life. This is why it is important to protect it as soon as possible ".

Furthermore, Napoletano points out, the calendar, vaccines and age of administration are designed to ensure that this preventive intervention is simple and effective in ensuring the protection of children's health.

And more and more often vaccines are offered in associated form for reduce the number of injections.

2) Does giving too many vaccines at once overload the immune system?

Many vaccine-skeptical parents fear that so many vaccinations together could overload a child's immune system. "We try to explain to these parents that in reality the child is able to respond to various agents at the same time: after all, unless he lives under a glass bell, he already has to deal with viruses and bacteria in the life of all. days, "says Napoletano. Every day, that is, through the food he eats or the air he breathes, he comes into contact with various germs, more or less pathogenic, present in the environment.



"On the one hand, therefore, the immune system is extremely powerful: that is, it is able to recognize and effectively fight millions of different substances (antigens). On the other hand, today we can count on vaccines that contain a minimum number of antigens, much lower than those carried by the disease.

For example, it is considered that the bacterium that causes whooping cough has more than 3000 substances that function as antigens, while the vaccine against whooping cough has only three, those that serve to stimulate an adequate response to the disease ".

3) Do vaccines cause dangerous adverse reactions?

Vaccines not only strengthen the development of the immune system, but they also stimulate the immune memory so that the body is able to react promptly when in the future it comes in contact with the virus or bacterium that can cause the disease.

In short, the vaccine is a sort of "training" that makes the body stronger to win the challenge against disease. While vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, such as measles or chickenpox, expose the child to other infections and possible complications that can be very dangerous. Just think of encephalitis, a possible complication of measles, a severe inflammation of the brain that can be fatal or cause deafness or mental retardation.

"Yet diseases are less frightening than the possible side effects of vaccines" Neapolitan specifies. But parents, worried about their children's health, aren't the only ones keeping their guard up against vaccine reactions. "Healthcare professionals are also on alert to assess any contraindications first and monitor after any adverse reactions."

Before vaccinations it is in fact advisable to understand if the child is in good health and has no contraindications to vaccination, such as allergic reactions to some components of the vaccine. "In general, colds and mild upper respiratory tract infections are not a contraindication to the administration of vaccines. Instead, it is better to postpone the administration in case of acute illness with fever."

After vaccination, however, the most common reactions concern swelling, redness or pain in the place where the injection was made: in these cases, you can give comfort by applying fresh cloths. Sometimes, moreover, fever can occur: if it is higher than 38 ° C, antipyretic drugs are administered.

The Green Channel has been active in Veneto since 1993: the regional reference center for prevaccination counseling and surveillance of adverse vaccination events. "The adverse reaction data collected from this activity allow us to proceed with confidence in the administration of vaccines, because the documented side effects are negligible compared to the complications of the diseases from which the vaccines protect.

In these years of activity, out of over 29 million doses of vaccine administered there have been 7.929 reports of suspected adverse reactions, mostly mild, which were then analyzed to verify the actual relationship with the vaccine and the extent of the discomfort caused. Well, all the known adverse reactions have resolved: fever, vomiting, drowsiness and even the most serious reactions (such as febrile convulsions) did not have any consequences on the health of the children. Distant disturbances persisted only in very rare cases (4 children and 11 adults), with a rate of 0,45 per million (less than 1 case for every 2 million doses of vaccine administered) ".

Alleged link between vaccines and autism

And then there is the alleged link between vaccines and autism, unfounded but insidious. A legend widely disproved by scientific research, but which continues to reignite the debate on the danger of vaccines.

"It is common in the clinical experience of those dealing with autism - the neuropsychiatrist Persico and neurobiologist Maria Luisa Scattoni explain on the Epicentro portal - to meet 3-4 year old children with autistic disorders, even severe ones and parents who place the onset of symptoms / the onset of the disorder in the days / weeks immediately following a major infection or vaccination ".

But "an accurate reconstruction of family and personal history - they specify - reveals, in retrospect, clear signs of a more remote problem, pre-existing to the administration of vaccines: from difficulties in conception or threats of abortion during pregnancy, to delay in babbling, a reduction / delay in sharing the gaze in the relationship mother-child or, again, selectivity in food choices at the time of weaning or in the handling of toys ".

The alleged relationship between trivalent vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) and autism was put forward by (former) British physician Andrew Wakefield in 1998. But it has been shown to be a good-and-for-all scientific fraud, set up for economic interests. that Wakefield was disbarred from the order. On the contrary, however, more and more scientific studies confirm that vaccines do not cause autism.

After all, autism spectrum disorders develop during pregnancy, due to genetic mutations that cause abnormalities in the development of the nervous system (exposure to viral infections in the prenatal phase or the mother's intake of anti-epileptic drugs , in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, can contribute to the onset of the disease). Even if the malfunctioning of the neural networks is not evident in the first months of life, it only becomes evident during the child's development.

Vaccines are victims of their success

"It should not be underestimated that thanks to vaccinations some diseases are now under control and are no longer scary"specifies Giovambattista Presti, doctor and professor of general psychology at the Kore University of Enna and vice president of the European Institute for the study of human behavior (Iescum). A high vaccination coverage in the child population (that is, if many children are vaccinated) reduces in fact the circulation of the infectious agent and also protects those who, for various reasons, have not been vaccinated: the so-called flock effect.

Their very success, however, ends up questioning the need to continue the practice of vaccinations for infectious diseases which now seem confined to the past, even if in reality they are always lurking.

In 2022, the warning from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about the worrying increase in measles cases in the United States went around the web. The result of the anti-vaccination campaigns, which have thus turned the clock back in time: given that the United States in 2000 declared the disease eradicated from the country.

But even the country (and Europe) is still far from reaching the necessary vaccination coverage (95% of the population) for the elimination of measles. And the decline in vaccinations among children is a serious public health problem because vaccinations are an important primary element of prevention.

You may have read Roald Dahl's letter about it, the author of 'The Chocolate Factory', with which he exhorts (the letter dates back to 1986) parents to vaccinate their children against measles, a disease that in 1962 stole his daughter Olivia due to encephalitis.

But precisely the anti-measles vaccine has become the symbol of media campaigns against vaccinations, both for the false perception of risk and for the alleged link with autism.

"This is why it is important to focus on dialogue, which cannot be separated from listening", Presti points out. "To favor the vaccine choice and dispel false myths, scientifically unfounded, it is not necessary to appeal (only) to rationality", that is, the spirit of championing the right choice is not needed.

According to Presti, in fact, whether they are founded or unfounded, the Parental fears are an expression of a legitimate concern for the health of their children and it is up to medical staff not to deny and not underestimate their discomfort.

"In the awareness - he adds - that scientific explanations can do nothing in the face of irrational fears if the doctor fails to establish a relationship of trust. Parents should not be treated sufficiently because they assume that this or that conspiracy thesis is true and antivaccinista who depopulated on the net.

But it is essential - he concludes - to implement coordinated strategies between healthcare companies, pediatricians and family doctors that involve and accompany mothers and fathers towards an informed and conscious choice ". Recalling, as Elisabetta Franco, professor of hygiene and preventive medicine at the University, does Tor Vergata of the city, that "getting vaccinated is a social act, the recognition of belonging to a community.

Indeed, the individual's choice to protect himself from an avoidable infectious disease has positive repercussions on the entire community, from his family to his fellow citizens. It is an aspect on which perhaps there is not yet sufficient sensitivity and awareness but which, adequately justified and communicated, rightfully falls within the elements in favor of vaccinations ".

Read also: Vaccination and children

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