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Dr. White: I'm Dr. Charles White, family medicine, physician, at the University of Utah Sugarhouse Clinic. One question I get about immunizations from first-time parents and even more experienced parents is: Why are we giving so many shots in the first couple years of life?
It's a matter of timing really because infants come to us with this immune system that's ready to work but it's immature. And so we want to do as much as we can to help build the defenses of that infant as early on as possible. The vaccines help with that. And having that immature immune system that hasn't been exposed to a lot of things makes it much more efficient at this age group when they're young.
We do about 24 immunizations in the first 2 years of life for 15 different diseases. It's really important and at that timing is that first six months when we do the most, that we're just giving their immune system something to fight, something to start a memory for, something that will last them the rest of their lives really.
The reason why these 15 diseases are what we focus on, they're generally the ones that have been found to be the things that are going to make your child the most sick, the most ill, the things that are going to have the most long-term effects. Diseases that we would generally say have a really high potential for causing bad outcomes, and so those are the ones that we really focus on.
Some parents think that we're giving a lot of shots, but the reassuring thing is we've done this for years and years. There's great evidence behind it and most children, the good majority of children, handle and tolerate that many shots very easily and very well. Because as I said, they have this immune system that's ready to work, it's just we're giving it something to work on.
Just to reiterate, it's very important that we do all of these shots as scheduled. I know it's a lot of shots. I know that people think that we're sometimes giving too many. But the important thing is that we have this baby with a new immune system that needs to be kick started, and we know from experience that children tolerate this well. There's absolutely very little harm in doing the shots and much to gain from getting immunizations as scheduled.
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updated: April 24, 2019
originally published: February 27, 2017
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