News | Published August 26, 2014

Ask the pediatrician: Immunizations

Dr. C,

I'm being told my kids need certain immunizations for school but I've heard that vaccines can cause other health problems. Which vaccines are really necessary and which can I have them skip?

All of the vaccines that are currently required by the state for children to attend school are from the official recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of these vaccines are safe and well-tolerated and are very important to keep your children and the children around them free of these preventable diseases. Any vaccine can have potential side effects, and if any do occur, these are typically mild and short-lived. There are also some vaccines that are recommended but not required by the state, most notably Hepatitis A, influenza and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccines.

For the current schedule of vaccinations for preschool- and school-aged children, I recommend visiting the CDC website at

The PA State Requirements include all that are on the CDC list except for the Hepatitis A, influenza and HPV vaccines.

There are some sources that claim that immunizations are to blame for multiple chronic illnesses including autism, diabetes, and celiac disease. These conditions have been blamed on specific vaccines, specifically the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in connection with autism. Extensive studies have been done to look at these issues and have all concluded that vaccines are not linked to these or any specific chronic illnesses.

If you wish to not immunize your school-aged child, there is a process at most schools to file for an exemption – religious or otherwise. I personally recommend following the current immunization schedule as presented in order to provide the best possible protection for your children from preventable disease.

Immunization is one of the most important ways to protect yourself and others from infection and disease. August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month, so keep the importance of immunizations in mind with these facts:

  • According to research, vaccines are extremely safe and effective
  • Immunizations help protect against vaccine-preventable diseases like hepatitis B, rotavirus, influenza and measles
  • People who are not immunized are putting themselves at risk, as well as the entire community

Speak with your primary care physician to make sure you and your family are up to date with your vaccinations.