The top three concerns with vaccinations include: the supposed link to autism, whether it causes kids hurt, and what conditions preclude children receiving immunization shots. Here are the facts behind each.

Every day, parents are faced with decisions that impact the wellbeing of their families. One of the most important they will make involves getting children vaccinated against serious, sometimes potentially fatal diseases, like measles, mumps and rubella.

"The truth is, children are just as likely to develop autism with or without vaccinations. They are not a factor."

However, some parents have become hesitant as a result of misinformation. In understanding the facts, moms and dads can feel secure in knowing vaccinations are safe and play a crucial role in safeguarding the health of their kids.

Addressing parental worries

When it comes to vaccinations, parents want to know that they are doing the right thing. In recent years, there have been concerns raised around the potential risks of vaccinations and their impact on children.

One of the most common that doctors hear these days revolves around the link of vaccinations to autism. “There is no proof whatsoever that there is a connection,” says Dr. Joan Robinson, a paediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

The belief has persisted in part because of an article linking autism and vaccinations by Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal, The Lancet, in 1998. After more than a decade of subsequent research, the article was retracted in 2010 and the General Medical Council concluded in conducting his research he acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Dr. Robinson feels the autism-vaccination myth has had staying power because of the belief that the incidence of autism has increased. “Parents may believe this is the case because, in the past, autism was not a term that was used,” she explains. “It’s a more recent thing. The truth is, children are just as likely to develop autism with or without vaccinations. They are not a factor.”

Taking the ouch out of vaccinations

No parent ever wants his or her child to experience physical pain. It’s not surprising that an estimated 44 percent of parents are concerned with the discomfort associated with vaccinations – understandable since they spend their lives trying to prevent hurt, whether it’s scraped knees or upset tummies.

Getting a vaccination does not need to be painful or upsetting for kids. There are a few simple things parents can do to support them during the experience. Dr. Robinson suggests parents minimize their own anxieties. Children are sensitive to them and may mirror the fears of their caregivers.

At the doctor’s office, parents can also tap into the powers of distraction so that the focus is not on the vaccination. Before the inoculation, parents can give older children a toy, read a favourite storybook, or blow bubbles to divert their attention. Infants benefit from being nursed or sipping sugar water.

There’s also the option of applying a numbing cream to the injection site to ease any pain. Note that it takes time to work so parents may want to apply it at home before the vaccination, or allow time in the waiting room.

Dr. Robinson also says some children will cry, not from pain, but from the mere fact they are in unfamiliar surroundings among strangers.

Should you vaccinate a sick child?

Come vaccination day, a child may be feeling ill. Parents may wonder whether they should cancel the appointment. In some cases, the answer is “yes.” If he or she has a high fever, it’s best to postpone. If it’s a runny nose, cough or minor cold, parents can still proceed. A good rule of thumb is that if the child is well enough to attend school or be at daycare, it’s okay to go ahead with the vaccination.

In very rare cases should parents not vaccinate children – if there has been an anaphylactic response (less than one in 100,000 occurrence) or the child has a compromised immune system (due to chemotherapy treatment, for example).
Your physician is happy to talk about vaccinations and provide the most accurate and up-to-date information. Don’t hesitate to discuss any questions or concerns with your health care provider.