Can you believe it’s time to start planning for school to start? This year, most schools will be open and kids will be together in person. And most schools require vaccinations, so it’s time to start planning now in order to be prepared for that first day of school.
During the past year, we’ve all seen how powerful vaccines can be in slowing the pandemic. In fact, vaccines are considered one of the great public health advances of all time. Nowadays, we can protect children and their families from diseases that used to strike terror into the hearts of parents — diseases like polio that required treatment with iron lungs or a lifetime of needing wheelchairs or crutches. And diseases like H. flu B – parents would put their child to bed with what looked like a cold and then be unable to awaken them in the morning because overnight the disease had progressed to overwhelming meningitis or sepsis, killing their precious child in his sleep. We even have vaccines against diseases that used to affect almost all kids, and were especially dangerous or even deadly for a few (like chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella). We even have a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and other types of cancer – the HPV vaccine.
If you’re looking for resources for your patients about vaccines, please check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources (available in English and Spanish): https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/resources/childhood.html. This web page has easy-to-read immunization schedules, videos about how vaccines work and what to expect with vaccination, tips on making vaccination less stressful, fact sheets and infographics. There’s a separate page just for preteen and teen resources: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/resources/teen.html.
Vaccines are safer than ever, and new combination vaccines mean protection against more diseases with fewer injections. And there are many effective ways to make vaccines more comfortable without reducing their effectiveness. For example, infants can nurse during vaccine administration or immediately before and after, or suck on a pacifier dipped in a sucrose (sugar) solution. An injection site can be numbed with ice or a “buzzy” device (https://www.amazon.com/Buzzy-Mini-Personal-Striped-injections/dp/B004UMOWBM); a clinician can use guided imagery to use the child’s imagination to numb the injection site; and Smart phones and tablets can be used to offer distraction from injections.
I’m deeply grateful to all the scientists and clinicians who have worked to make the world a safer place for children by creating the vaccines we have today as well as the anesthesiologists and pain researchers who have figured out how to make these important protectors more comfortable and easier to take.
Professor, Ohio State University College of Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Complementary Therapies in Medicine