When NOT to vaccinate

My baby is 11 days old and I want to vaccinate him against the Haemophilus Influenzae type B. Are there some circumstances when you should not vaccinate?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

It is important to realize that there are certain specific instances in which certain vaccines should not be administered. However, it is also important to understand certain misconceptions people have (including some doctors) about when not to give vaccines. There are relatively few absolute medical reasons (or contraindications) not to give vaccines. Below I list these reasons as well as some commonly accepted erroneous contraindications against vaccines.

CONTRAINDICATIONS TO

  1. Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP) Vaccine
    * Moderate or severe illness
    * Progressive neurologic problems
    * Previous serious reaction to the vaccine
  2. Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV)
    * Moderate or severe illness
    * Previous serious reaction to the vaccine
    * Cancer or HIV infection
    * Taking a drug which lowers the body's ability to fight infection (e.g chemotherapy drugs, high dose steroids)
    * Pregnancy
    * Having a household contact with cancer or HIV infection
  3. Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine (MMR)
    * Moderate or severe illness
    * Previous serious reaction to the vaccine
    * Pregnancy or possible pregnancy in the next 3 months
    * Life-threatening allergic reponse to eggs or neomycin (although this idea is now being challenged)
    * Cancer or people with suppressed immune systems except those with HIV
    * Taking a drug which lowers the body's ability to fight infection (e.g chemotherapy drugs, high dose steroids)
    * Recent transfusion with blood products
  4. Haemophilus influenzae Vaccine (Hib)
    * Moderate or severe illness
    * Previous serious reaction to the vaccine
  5. Hepatitis B Vaccine (HBV)
    * Moderate or severe illness
    * Previous serious reaction to the vaccine

COMMONLY ACCEPTED REASONS NOT TO GIVE VACCINES WHICH ARE UNTRUE

  1. A reaction to a previous DTP with only soreness, redness, or swelling in the immediate vacinity of the vaccination site or a temperature of less than 105 F (40.5 C)
  2. Mild illness with low-grade fever or mild diarrhea in an otherwise well child.
  3. Current use of antibiotics
  4. Premature infants
  5. A pregnant household contact
  6. Breastfeeding
  7. A history of allergies not associated with vaccines (this includes allergies to antibiotics other than neomycin)
  8. A family history of convulsions
  9. A family history of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  10. A family history of an adverse event after vaccination

Congratulations for your new addition to the family, and I am happy to hear of your enthusiasm about getting your son started on his immunizations. Immunizing your child is the one simple act that can substantially reduce the risk of him and others around him getting a life-threatening disease.

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