Camille: Welcome to Health Break by UPMC Health Plan, your quick guide to health, wellness, and how to make the most of your health insurance plan. I’m your host, Dr. Camille Clarke-Smith. I help to oversee the quality of the plans and programs we offer at UPMC Health Plan.
Angelo: And I’m your co-host, Angelo Bartic. I’m a health coach on our Prescription for Wellness team who works with our members on making healthy lifestyle habits and setting goals. This is your…Health Break.
Hey everyone, it’s Angelo Bartic. Today we’re talking with Dr. Johanna Vidal-Phelan, practicing pediatrician and chief medical officer in the Quality Department at UPMC Health Plan, about the safety and importance of vaccines and immunizations through every stage of childhood. Dr. Vidal-Phelan, thank you so much for being with us today.
Dr. Vidal-Phelan: Thank you for having me.
Angelo: It’s our pleasure. Why are vaccinations important and how do we know that a vaccine is safe and effective?
Dr. Vidal-Phelan: Immunizations are one of the most important accomplishments in health care. Because of immunization, children and teenagers are protected against potentially life-threatening diseases like polio or measles, for example. A common question parents, caregivers, and grandparents ask me as a pediatrician is, are vaccines safe and effective? I usually start answering that question by sharing from my own experience as a mother of two sons that are fully vaccinated. As a parent, I chose to vaccinate my children because I am committed to protecting them against diseases that are preventable and could potentially harm them. I have never regretted my decision to vaccinate my children, including the influenza vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines, and the human papilloma virus vaccines. I also share with parents and caregivers that vaccines are extensively tested to ensure their safety and effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, take many steps to guarantee vaccine safety both before and after vaccines are available to the public. Vaccine safety is a critical priority not only for the CDC and the FDA, but also to pediatricians like me, family doctors, physicians, and providers that administer immunizations daily to our patients.
Angelo: Thank you so much for the information and more importantly, we really appreciate you sharing your perspective. What are some of the immunizations that children should have at different stages?
Dr. Vidal-Phelan: That is a great question. As a pediatrician, I follow the recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedule that is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading medical organizations. The immunization schedule recommends the age when children and teens should receive vaccines. I always advise parents and caregivers to follow the recommended immunization schedule to offer the best protection to children and teenagers from preventable conditions. It is important to note that schedules may be different for children with certain chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems, and for those that require catchup immunizations. Children receive what is called their primary series of vaccines, beginning at birth through ages 15 to 18 months of age. These vaccines help to protect against certain type of life-threatening brain or blood infections and preventable diseases like whooping cough, chickenpox, polio, and measles. Between the ages of four to six years, children receive booster shots for diseases like whooping cough, polio, measles, and others, and additional vaccinations are also given to children between the ages of nine to 12 and 16 and 18 years of age. These include vaccines like human papillomavirus vaccinations that can help prevent against certain types of cancer, meningococcal vaccines that help protect against bacteria that causes meningitis, which is a brain infection, and boosters against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.
Angelo: We understand that there sometimes can be hesitancy around vaccines. What would you say to someone who might feel hesitant about vaccines for their kids?
Dr. Vidal-Phelan: First, I always start by recognizing, and I understand that parents and caregivers may express hesitancy against vaccines. I am concerned with the amount of misinformation targeting young parents and families. If you are obtaining your medical information from sources like social media, you may read information that may not be true and purposely creates fear and mistrust against vaccines. I want to start by acknowledging your fears and concerns. As a pediatrician, I know that building trust with our patients and families is vital. We want to hear from you when you have questions or concerns. If you are hesitant or confused about vaccinations, I advise that you reach out to your primary care provider and use internet resources that are validated by the CDC and medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Academy of Family Physicians. Don’t be afraid to ask your questions, as we want you to feel confident in your decision to immunize your children. Personally, as a mother, I chose to immunize my children because I wholeheartedly believe in the efficacy and the safety of vaccinations.
Angelo: Thank you so much, Dr. Vidal-Phelan, for discussing the safety and importance of vaccines and immunizations for children and taking a Health Break with us.
Dr. Vidal-Phelan: Thank you for having me.
Angelo: Call your child’s health care provider to talk about any immunizations your child may need to receive to stay healthy.
Find show notes and more information at upmchealthplan.com/podcast. Join us as we continue exploring health, wellness, and how to make the most of your health insurance plan in the next episode of Health Break.
This podcast is for informational and educational purposes. It is not medical care or advice. Individuals in need of medical care should consult their personal care provider. Views and opinions expressed by the hosts and guests are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of UPMC Health Plan and its employees.