Ask Dr. Dana: Vaccination 411

March 25, 2009 12:00 AM

Q: I’m pregnant with twins and have questions about vaccinations. Do I need to give the babies the first Hepatitis B shot while they’re in the hospital? I’ve heard so much conflicting information about vaccines, and I’m very confused. Do I have to decide before I deliver?

A: No, you don’t have to decide before you deliver. The babies can get their initial Hepatitis B shot at their first doctor visit. After that, the first series of vaccines isn’t given until two months. By that time, you’ll have had several appointments with your pediatrician and had the chance to talk with him or her about vaccines.

I will say that, for the current generation of parents, it can be hard to understand the seriousness of the illnesses these vaccines prevent, because in our lifetimes, vaccines have prevented them for the most part. We haven’t seen how bad chicken pox can be; we don’t know about whooping cough. And as an M.D., I can promise you that sickness and death truly can be associated with these diseases.

I had a 2-year-old daughter when the chicken-pox vaccine was introduced. I thought it would be OK for her to get the chicken pox naturally—I had it as a kid and I was fine. Shortly after, I rotated through the pediatric intensive care unit as part of my residency training. There were two children in the unit with complications from chicken pox. One had a severe pneumonia, and the other had an inflammation of the brain. I chose to give my 2 year old the chicken-pox vaccine at her next checkup.

I recommend the American Association of Pediatrics vaccine schedule to the families I see in my practice. You can find information
regarding vaccines at www.aap.org and www.cdc.gov.

Lisa Dana, M.D., is a pediatrician at Golden Gate Pediatrics in San Francisco and a clinical faculty member at University of California, San Francisco.

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