Selected Podcast

ABCs of Common Vaccination

Demystifying the vaccinations kids get and why.
ABCs of Common Vaccination
Featured Speaker:
Joseph Berg, DO
Joseph Berg, DO Specialty is Family Medicine. 

Learn more about Joseph Berg, DO
Transcription:

Caitlin Whyte: There are so many myths and misinformation surrounding vaccines of all kinds, but especially the ones we give to our children. So joining us with the ABCs of common vaccination is Dr. Joseph Berg, a family medicine physician at Upland Hills Health Mount Horeb Clinic.

This is the Inspire Health Podcast from Upland Hills Health. I'm your host, Caitlin Whyte. So doctor, start us off here. Just how early in life is it safe to vaccinate?

Joseph Berg, DO: It is okay to do vaccinations at birth. The first one we give is at like one or two days old. So very, very early.

Caitlin Whyte: Well, why don't we wait until our kids are a bit older and stronger?

Joseph Berg, DO: Well, that's because they're younger and weaker. The illnesses that we vaccinate against or for affect the youngest kids the most and cause the most problems in those younger children. So that's why we get them those vaccines early to prevent the problems that those illnesses can have.

Caitlin Whyte: Well, that makes sense. What is the schedule then for vaccinating kids?

Joseph Berg, DO: So, I mean, to most parents, it seems like really aggressive and scary, but it's something that we study extensively and really, really focus on making sure it's right and protect the most kids from the most things. So they get two to three shots almost every visit from the time they're born until they're about two years old. There's a couple of breaks in between and then there is a few extra heavy times at like 4, 11 and 17 months. So at two months, four months, six months, 12 to 18 months and 24 months, they're getting two to three shots each time with multiple vaccines in them. And then at 4, 11 and 17, they get more.

Caitlin Whyte: Now do parents have a choice in all of this? Can they opt out of any vaccinations if they wanted to?

Joseph Berg, DO: Well, of course, I mean, parents always have a choice. It's never, "I'm just telling you what we're doing," and that's the end be-all end-all, right? This isn't like the 1970s where, you know... Hey, it's 2022, everything's a shared decision. You know, we talk to our patients about the best way to prevent illness and disease and disability and other problems. And honestly, the most effective way to do this for children is to vaccinate. And I mean, it's an emotional thing and, you know, you're putting something different into your child. And I, as a parent of three, can like understand that feeling, but I also can understand why vaccinating is so important and have seen the issues that come up when you don't vaccinate.

Caitlin Whyte: So you've alluded to it already, but do you recommend vaccinating? And if so, why?

Joseph Berg, DO: Yeah, a thousand percent recommend. It is probably the single most important scientific or medical discovery and change in the last a hundred years. It's the best way to prevent disease, disability, and death in children. And my generation forgets, and like parents today, just kind of forgotten what life was like back when there wasn't routine vaccination. Because of immunization, really scary things didn't happen to our kids. You know, if you talk to your parents or people that came up in like the '60s and '70s, they'll talk about times when, you know, they couldn't go to the public pool or to the library because there was a polio scare. And they maybe had a friend or a neighbor that, you know, had to be in an iron lung or became paralyzed or had trouble walking.

One of my mentors in residency is a family doctor. And he would talk to us about the times when he was on pediatric rotations in the hospital seeing children and he would routinely see them die from meningitis, from a common virus that we vaccinate against now. And that's something that when I was in residency, you know, 15 years ago, I didn't see one child die in the hospital, because we have these vaccines that prevent these severe illnesses and death.

Caitlin Whyte: Tell us more about the evidence for vaccinating. What's on paper?

Joseph Berg, DO: Vaccines are maybe some of the most studied things in science. They are researched and studied probably more than any other therapeutic that's on the market, any other drug or treatment, because they are so important. To bring in a vaccine to market, you even need higher standards. You need to have more people and more patients in a study. You'd have to have better standards to have a vaccine be something that we consider. So if you think about a drug, oftentimes we'll bring a drug to market and it'll be out in the world if it causes like a 2% to 3% change in some measure, right? Some very, very small improvements. Something that would be statistically significant, but maybe minorly clinically significant, right? It maybe looks good when we do a scientific study. But when you give it out to people, only a few people out of a hundred, really get a benefit for something.

It's not the same with vaccines. Oftentimes we're only going to bring a vaccine if 90 plus percentage of the people that get the vaccine prevent infection or improve severity of infection. So it's very stringent and there's lots and lots of people in this study that's also just so closely monitored after they're deployed and brought out to the world because so many people get them. We want to know like is anybody having a problem with them? So adverse events are very, very closely monitored. And then, the schedule itself is just constantly re-evaluated. Like, are we giving the right vaccines at the right times for the right people? And there's like teams of physicians for different organizations. There's a big national one that works with the CDC and the FDA to come out with the best schedule. Each individual, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, they all evaluate vaccines and they look for the most current evidence and they say, "Hey, is this the best thing to give at this time? There's a new study come out about this vaccine that maybe says that it isn't the best." So the evidence is staggering and it's all over the place. And it's all very good and positive. And it's definitely good evidence.

Caitlin Whyte: And wrapping up here, is there any other side to that? What is the evidence of potential harm or long-term side effects, if any?

Joseph Berg, DO: Right. There are very few. And again, like I said, vaccines are very, very, very heavily researched and most every vaccine has just minor side effects that we've all experienced when we've gotten a vaccine, right? Soreness at the injection site, you know, a sore arm, especially after like a tetanus shot or the most recent COVID vaccine; maybe a fever, maybe a few muscle aches or a headache; maybe in a kid, he won't eat as well or won't sleep as well at that night. But after that, things are fine.

The most severe reactions are usually anaphylactic reactions. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to things in vaccines, so they could get a really terrible rash, maybe even have trouble breathing. And in those rare cases, we have good medicines to give to help improve those reactions.

But other than that, you know, there's not a lot of long-term side effects, if any, to vaccination, except for not getting that thing. Vaccines have been given out for years and they have been very closely monitored and reevaluated over and over and over again, not just by, you know, major organizations, but by the government itself. I'm sure everybody knows about VAERS, which is a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. That's something that's been around for many years where any adverse event is reported to the CDC and they follow up on that and they can kind of see trends. And if a lot of people are getting certain reactions to this or that, and then they can make changes or recommend things.

So vaccines are super safe. They're super, super effective. They're very highly researched. A lot of what we do, just kind of as the last point, is very much like we said, like it's very small. Like a lot of what we do is like, "Hey, you know, we're going to give you this thing and it might help a little bit. So we're hoping it helps a lot, you know." But vaccines are one of those things where we know we give it to you and we like directly prevent death. It's a huge deal.

Caitlin Whyte: Well, Dr. Berg, thank you so much for your guidance and for clearing up common vaccines for us. You can find more about Dr. Joseph Berg and how to make an appointment with him as well as all the other Upland Hills Health Family Medicine physicians at uplandhillshealth.org.

This has been the Inspire Health Podcast from Upland Hills Health. I'm Caitlin Whyte. Be well.