Reluctant to get vaccines for your kid? Don’t be—they can save your child’s life

All parents hate to hear their child cry, but the alternative can be far worse when it comes to getting vaccines.

So many kids are afraid of shots, and parents may be loath to insist. Sometimes parents are afraid of reactions, but serious reactions are very rare. Or parents could be misinformed that immunizations can make their child sick. Most of the time, the worst a vaccine will do is cause a little soreness, a low-grade fever or other mild symptoms. (If a child gets sick right after having the flu vaccine, for example, it’s probably because the child was infected with an illness before receiving the vaccine. Viruses can be present in the body for up to two weeks before symptoms appear.)

Vaccines can actually save lives, preventing cancer and other serious illnesses. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent penile cancer in men, cervical and vaginal cancer in women, as well as oral and anal cancer.

“We normally give children the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12,” said Kathy Kent, clinical nurse supervisor at University Health System. “Parents might be sensitive that it implies their child is sexually active, but that’s not what we are suggesting. It’s important to get all vaccines before kids come into contact with the virus. Otherwise it doesn’t do any good.”

Immunizations are important, but a fear of needles can make them difficult

Even when parents are on board with vaccines, kids still may have anxiety about getting a shot. Our nurses help the process go as smoothly and quickly as possible. And they try to make it as easy as possible for parents to get it done through our healthyUexpress immunization drives. During these drives, a preventive health care team takes a bus to different locations in the community—schools, senior centers, churches, food pantries, anywhere there’s a need.

The mobile clinic offers all vaccines required by school districts as well as the HPV and flu vaccines. And because it’s a new environment, sometimes it’s easier for children to be distracted by interesting equipment in the lab and pay less attention to the shot itself.

Most insurance policies cover the full cost of vaccines, including those not required for school, such as HPV and flu. Children will never be denied immunizations because of a lack of insurance.

“We don’t turn any child away, no matter if they’re underinsured, undocumented, whatever,” says Katherine Diaz, University Health System director of Health Care Services. “We don’t turn kids away for any reason.”

Other tips for helping kids get through a shot

“It’s never good if the parent promises the child they don’t have to get shots but they do.” Kent says. “That sets everyone up for failure.”

Instead, our nurses are as fast as possible, having everything ready before getting started. Kids are allowed to sit in their parent’s lap, and parents give their child a tight hug to keep him or her as still and calm as possible. Nurses distract the child and hide the needle as much as possible. Getting kids in and out quickly without a long, dreaded anticipation time also helps.

“Some vaccines, like HPV and meningitis, do hurt, but we don’t want to discourage people from getting them,” Kent says about older kids getting shots. “These vaccines prevent diseases that can kill you, or if they don’t kill you, they can have life-altering consequences. It’s better to be sore for a few days than to be dead.”

For more information about the children’s mobile health clinic, call 210-358-7020 or visit the website at https://www.universityhealthsystem.com/pediatrics/services/mobile-clinic.

For additional resources about vaccines, including vaccine schedules, visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/parents-adults/resources-parents.html.

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