Dr. Sarah Adams

The doctor is in: Vaccinations and playtime

Should I let my vaccinated kids play with children who haven’t been vaccinated?

Every year over 2 million children are under-vaccinated. In 2020, this number may be even higher due to the fear of coming to the doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the fears of some parents about vaccines.

With this in mind, should you allow your vaccinated child to play with an unvaccinated child? When faced with difficult questions like this, I try to stick with the facts, my experience and the thought, “What would I do if this were my child?”

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Here are the facts: Unvaccinated children are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases. Many of these diseases are uncommon but do still occur.

To make this decision consider: Is your child high risk? Do you have anyone in your home who is considered high risk, such as a baby under 12 months of age, someone with weaker immune systems due to a disorder, cancer or who is a transplant recipient, who could become seriously ill if they contracted one of these diseases?

Your child can catch diseases from people without symptoms. For example, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) can spread from people who have the bacteria in their body who are not ill and can cause meningitis in another person. And infants under 12 months old, who are not yet old enough for the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and chicken pox vaccines, are at risk of acquiring those illnesses.

Vaccines have proven themselves to be very effective in keeping our kids healthy. However, everyone’s immune response to a vaccine is different. Data shows that vaccine effectiveness can vary based on the vaccine as well as the time of year and the child’s own immune system. But the good news is if a vaccinated child does acquire an illness, the disease is milder. An example of that would be the flu.

I believe it’s a good idea to know if playmates are vaccinated so that you can decide what is best for your child and family. I advocate that all children be up to date on their vaccines. They are safe, effective and come with an important responsibility to save not only your child’s life but the life of someone else. Our pediatricians’ offices are safe, and we encourage you to bring your children in to stay current on their vaccines.

If you have more questions about your own child’s health and risks in this situation, your pediatrician would be happy to talk with you.

— Dr. Sarah Adams, Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Hudson