Vaccines 101 – Lessons 1 & 2

With back to school time in full swing, we want to talk about a very controversial topic in the pediatric healthcare community: Vaccinations.

We know you want to do what’s right for your child. Lead by Dr. Sabrina Clark, our series of blogs will be informative, covering controversies associated with vaccines, address some of the concerns/questions that parents have about vaccines, explain their true purpose and vaccination schedules.

So let’s dig in and start with the basics in our first two lesson plans: What is a Vaccine and Why is their controversy?

Lesson 1: What Is a Vaccine?

Vaccines can be a bit difficult to explain because there is a lot of science and medical jargon that goes along with it. Simply put, a vaccine is a weakened form of an organism or components of an organism. Think of it like a security system for your body.

What is a vaccines sole purpose?

A vaccine’s sole purpose is to expose your immune system to an illness (intruder), so that when your body sees this trespasser again in its full blown capacity you are programmed with the tools (antibodies) needed to fight off that infection before it has the chance to cause harm to your body.

Is a vaccine live or killed components of an organism?

A vaccine can be live or killed components of an organism; however, in all cases it’s a weakened version making it virtually impossible for it to actually induce full blown infection in the body of a healthy person with a normal immune system.

If you are more of a visual learner, check out the cool diagram above from the CDC describing how a vaccine builds immunity.

Lesson 2: The Controversy Surrounding Vaccines

Over the years various reports began to surface in the media claiming that there were links between vaccines and disorders such as autism. This spurred a lot of fear and anxiety—parents began declining vaccines, requesting delayed vaccine schedules, and started to question the standard of care recommended for their children.

What was one of the biggest controversies surrounding vaccines?
An article published in 1998 claiming there was a relationship between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine and autism encouraged one of the largest nationwide vaccine refusals.

In 2004, it was brought to light that the information in this article had been fabricated. Since this incident there have been numerous validated reports that have proven there is no link between vaccinations and autism.

However, the damage had been done and since this occurred, vaccine refusal continues to be an issue in the pediatric healthcare community.

Has the high trend in vaccine refusals led to a climb in incidences of vaccine preventable diseases?

Yes, specifically with the US. Measles, a virus that was deemed eliminated in 2000, leading to an outbreak in Disneyland-Anaheim in 2015. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified 188 cases associated with the Disneyland exposures, most of which were labeled under vaccinated or not vaccinated individuals.

Have there been any other vaccine controversies? What about with HPV vaccines?

Yes, another big controversy surfaced when the HPV vaccine came on the market in 2006. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer in women. When the vaccine was introduced there were lots of mixed views in the media in regards to why a vaccine for an STD was being recommended for young children.

What our pediatricians tell parents is the purpose of the HPV vaccine is to prevent cervical cancer. It does not promote sexual activity. Even if your child is not sexually active currently, chances are that they will be in the future and in turn could be exposed to HPV. This is the reason why we recommend widespread use of this vaccine.

Take home points from Lesson 1 & 2:

→ A vaccine is simply a weakened form of an organism used to program your immune system.

→ There is a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines. Beware of myths and false information, and focus on evidence-based research and trusted information.

Continue learning!

Read Lesson 3: The impact of vaccines on childhood illnesses

Read Lesson 4: Recommended vaccine schedule

Read Lesson 5: Common side effects


Disclaimer: Your instructor will disclose that her personal and profession opinion and recommendation is to always vaccinate and to follow the recommended immunization schedule. However, this article is solely meant to be informative, touch base on some of the controversies associated with vaccines, and address some of the concerns/questions that parents have about vaccines and their true purpose.


References and Additional Reading List:

* American Academy of Pediatrics

* Healthy

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

* Immunization Action Coalition

* The History of Vaccines

* Vaccine Ingredients