Christina daSilva
Certain vaccines are recommended for children during infancy and their first few years, because these vaccines serve to prevent the diseases that are most likely to occur when a child is young. (Submitted photo/Sanford)

Why are vaccines recommended for children at such young ages?

Vaccines recommended for infants and children prevent the diseases that are most likely to occur and could be most severe when a child is young. Maternal antibodies help protect newborns from many diseases, but this immunity can begin disappearing shortly after birth. Infectious diseases are more likely to cause serious problems in younger children. Childhood vaccines protect your child from serious or potentially fatal diseases such as meningitis, blood infections, whooping cough, measles and polio, among others.

Is vaccination necessary for diseases that have been virtually eliminated from the U.S.?

Some of the most devastating diseases that affect children have been greatly reduced due to vaccination. However, whooping cough is seeing a resurgence in the U.S.; North Dakota recently had outbreaks. And some diseases, such as measles, are also seeing a resurgence, particularly on the West Coast. Travelers can bring these diseases into this country and, without immunization, these diseases could quickly spread here. Having your child vaccinated according to the recommended schedule is the best thing you can do to protect your child's health. By vaccinating your child, you are also helping protect infants and immune-compromised children, such as those with cancer, who cannot receive vaccinations.

Do vaccines cause autism?

No, there is no scientifically proven link between vaccines and autism. The original study in 1998 that fueled this debate was critically flawed and has since been retracted. Extensive recent research has concluded no proven association.

What is thimerosal, and is it safe?

Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that is used in some vaccines, medicines and other products. Reliable studies have not shown that small amounts of thimerosal in vaccines cause harm. However, in 2001 as a precaution, thimerosal was removed from all routinely recommended childhood vaccines (except some influenza vaccines). Many vaccines, including MMR, varicella, polio and Hib vaccines, never contained thimerosal. If you have questions or concerns about thimerosal, speak to your doctor or child's pediatrician.

Do vaccines cause dangerous side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. Possible side effects are generally minor, such as low-grade fever, soreness or swelling at the injection site and fussiness. It is very rare for a child to have a severe reaction.

Is it really necessary to give my child every recommended vaccine?

Following the vaccine schedule ensures that children receive vaccines at the optimal time to protect them from infectious diseases. The reason several doses of the same vaccine are given is to ensure proper immune response and protection. Picking and choosing which vaccines you want your child to have is very risky. When parents choose to not have their children vaccinated, immunization rates drop and vaccine-preventable diseases can again become common threats to the entire population. If you are worried about a particular vaccine, talk to your child's doctor. If your child misses recommended dosages, ask your child's doctor to help you schedule vaccinations to get your child properly updated.

How can I keep track of what vaccines my child needs?

Keep a vaccination record for your child and consult with your child's doctor regularly to be sure your child's vaccination status is up to date. The North Dakota Department of Health website ( is also a good source of information.

Originally from Bismarck, Christina daSilva, DO, is a pediatrician at Sanford Children's Downtown Clinic in Bismarck. Dr. daSilva received an undergraduate degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and a medical degree from Des Moines University, Iowa.