Q: I just took my baby in for her two-month visit with the pediatrician. He wanted her to get two shots plus a polio vaccine all on the same day. I refused. Isn't that too much for a tiny baby?
A: It sounds to us as if your pediatrician was offering good medical care, following the guidelines on immunization offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.
One of the shots would have been a combination vaccine to begin the process of protecting your baby against three dreaded diseases: diphtheria, pertussis (whopping cough) and tetanus. The other would have been a vaccine to build your baby's defenses against bacteria named Haemophilus influenzae, the most common cause of meningitis (infection of the fluid and lining surrounding the brain) during infancy.
Immunization schedules are developed so that babies can be protected as soon as possible against all these diseases. Studies show that 2-month-olds, including babies born prematurely, can properly respond to these vaccines, even when they are given at the same time. It is important for your baby to become immune before she is exposed to the diseases.
We know it's not fun to see your child get even one shot. But the temporary pain is a small price to pay for protection against diseases that commonly kill children who are not immunized.
Q: We hear so much about needles spreading AIDS. Is it safe for children to get their baby shots? Is it worth the risk?
A: There is absolutely no chance your baby will get AIDS from an immunization (baby shot), because the needle used will be brand new, used for your baby only, and then thrown away. Needles can spread the AIDS virus only if they have been used by someone who has AIDS and then injected into someone else.
It's worth repeating. Needles can spread AIDS only if they are used by more than one person.
Baby shots cannot cause AIDS. But we're glad you brought it up. We didn't know parents were worrying about this, so we're glad to be able to reassure you without reservation.
Dr. Wilson is director of pediatric primary care of the Johns
Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.