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November 19, 2019

Skipping vaccines isn’t worth the risk: A "Q&A" with Rachelle Ambrose, MD, FAAP

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Rachelle Ambrose, MD, FAAP

Rachelle Ambrose, MD, FAAP

Failure to vaccinate has been cited among reasons that diseases such as measles and mumps are making a comeback. In fact, from January to the beginning of September, 1,241 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 31 states, the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. In Pennsylvania, 14 cases were reported from January through early September.

With more than 170 patient care locations and approximately 1,500 employed physicians throughout central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland, WellSpan Health is here to help you and your family receive the care you need to stay healthy. Here, Rachelle Ambrose, MD, FAAP, of WellSpan Pediatric Medicine answers some of the common questions about vaccinations.

QUESTION. Why are vaccines important? 
ANSWER. Vaccines keep us safe from infections and over the years have saved millions of lives. Just a few decades ago, children were dying from diseases such as polio, pertussis and hemophilius influenza, all of which can now be prevented by vaccines. Vaccines not only benefit those who receive them but also help to protect our community as a whole, including infants who are too young to receive vaccines and people who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines.

QUESTION. At what age should children receive their first vaccines? 
ANSWER. The first vaccine is the hepatitis B vaccine given shortly after birth. From that point, there are vaccines given at the following ages: 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 4 years, 11 years and at 16 years. In addition we recommend the flu vaccine every year in the fall for all children after 6 months of age.

QUESTION. Aren’t immunizations live viruses that can make you sick?
ANSWER. There are four commonly used vaccines: rotavirus, MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), chicken pox and nasal flu. These viral vaccines use weakened forms of the viruses to produce an immune response. It is extremely rare that they cause disease in the vaccinated person. If the person does develop symptoms of disease, they are generally mild compared to getting the natural disease. People who have weakened immune systems can run the risk of more serious complications with these vaccines, so these vaccines are not given to those individuals. All the other standard vaccines given to children are not live vaccines.

QUESTION. Why do people who get vaccinated against flu get flu anyway?
ANSWER. The flu vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of a child dying from the flu and there is evidence that even if the flu is not prevented by the vaccine, the disease is milder if the person has received the flu vaccine. Recent studies show the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu illness by between 40 percent and 60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well matched to the flu vaccine viruses. The flu vaccine does not protect against other “cold viruses,” which can cause symptoms that look like the flu so it may appear that the flu vaccine did not work.

QUESTION. Is there any credence to the claim that childhood immunizations cause or contribute to autism spectrum disorder?
ANSWER. No. Autism is a serious health concern, occurring at a rate of about 1 out of 59 children. Unfortunately the concern about autism and vaccines has significantly drawn resources and attention away from autism research. Multiple studies have failed to find any connection between vaccines or vaccine ingredients and autism.


Explore how WellSpan specialists are providing leading-edge treatments for patients across central Pennsylvania — near where you live, work and play. Visit WellSpan.org/PCP or call (800) 540-5905.

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