Getting your baby's first vaccines: Mini Parenting Master Class

A paediatric nurse answers some of the most common questions parents have.

Getting your child's first vaccines can cause a lot of anxiety for many parents, but there are ways to make it less stressful for both you and your baby. We spoke to paediatric nurse and mother, Dr. Shannon MacDonald, on the importance of vaccines for children and to get answers to parents' most common questions.


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Transcript of 'Getting your baby's first vaccines: Mini Parenting Master Class' video

As a parent myself, I know that going to get your child vaccinated can cause a lot of anxiety. You don’t want to do anything to hurt your child and the idea of them getting a needle can cause a lot of concern for parents. So, it’s important to remember there’re lots of strategies you can use.

My name is Shannon MacDonald and this is my Mini Parenting Master Class on getting your baby’s first shots.


How can you help your baby relax during the vaccination process?

As a nurse I’ve seen many parents who are so anxious about the event themselves that there’s no way the child is ever going to be relaxed about it. So, just having the parent take some deep breaths and speak in a calm voice is the biggest part of the battle, really.

The most important thing is for the parents themselves to be calm, because if the parent is anxious that gets translated to the child.

And then different strategies you can use for children: managing their pain, so either through numbing cream at the injection site, breastfeeding them during the immunization, that can be really effective.

And then distraction, just to keep the child thinking about something else, looking at a book or a poster or blowing bubbles.


Why should parents feel confident about vaccinating their babies?

I understand that parents hear lots of scary things about vaccines. I know they see things on the internet, they hear scary stories from friends. I just want to reassure them that the evidence that we have overwhelmingly shows that vaccines are safe and effective, and they are by far the best way to protect children from disease. And so parents can be reassured that their healthcare provider is really doing what’s best for their children when they vaccinate them.


How do vaccines work?

What vaccines do is they prepare your immune system for when they face germs in the future. So, the idea is you give your body a really weakened form of the germ and your immune system builds a memory to that germ.

By giving the child the vaccine and building their immune system then when they encounter that germ in the future, their body is all ready to fight the germ and they can defeat the germ rather than having the germ take over.


Why is it important for babies to get their vaccines early on?

It’s critical that children get vaccines really young, because that’s when they’re most vulnerable to the diseases. If you provide the vaccine early on, the child’s immune system is ready and then when they encounter those diseases, they’re able to fight.

If the child is unprotected at an early age, they’re more likely to get the disease, but babies also have a much more serious response to the disease and they have a harder time fighting it off, so it’s important they get the vaccines very early.


Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines that are introduced into our routine childhood immunization schedules have all been very rigorously tested and there are processes in place to monitor that safety after the vaccine is introduced to the population as well.

The ingredients that go into making up a vaccine are all carefully tested to make sure that they’re safe for children to receive. Most of the ingredients naturally occur in your environment and they’re put into the vaccine in exceptionally small quantities.

Vaccines don’t overwhelm a baby’s immune system because a baby is encountering lots of germs in their environment already and the vaccines are just a tiny portion of the multitude of germs that they encounter on a daily basis. So, they’re not harmful to children.


What are the most common side effects that parents can expect?

The types of side effects that a child experiences from a vaccine are usually very minor, not enough to keep them home from school even. They’re things like a slight fever or redness or soreness around the injection site. And those are things that you can just manage at home.

Those sorts of mild side effects resolve within 12 to 24 hours and they go away on their own and they don’t cause any long-term problems.


Why is it important to stick to the vaccine schedule?

It’s important to stick to the vaccine schedule because those schedules have been developed by scientists and experts who have looked at the best timing to receive a vaccine and what diseases a child is vulnerable to.

In certain countries, for instance, some diseases are more common and so a child will receive those vaccines earlier in their life, so sticking with that schedule is providing your children the protection they need from the diseases that they’re most likely to encounter.


>> Learn more about immunization

>> World Immunization Week


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