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Are "Extra" Immunizations Dangerous?
Q: Yesterday, my husband and I took our daughter to get a DPT shot at the doctor's office. The problem is that they gave her a shot that she already had and now I am worried of the consequences of this shot. In July of 1996 she got her second MMR and yesterday she got her third. Now she has to go back and get another shot, the DPT, which is needed to enter pre-kindergarten. The doctor will administer the shot himself, but I am still concerned. What are the possible consequences? Thank you in advance.
A: I understand the concern about your daughter receiving an extra immunization she really didn't need, but I wouldn't be overly "worried of the consequences of this shot." As I'm sure you're aware, each individual immunization does have side effects related to getting the shot -- for example, soreness and redness at the site at the time it's given, or, as is the case with MMR, fever and rash 5 to 14 days after the shot. Although your child may have experienced any of these, there's no reason to believe that she would be at any higher risk for common or even unusual side effects because of the extra one. In fact, medically, this extra immunization should only give your daughter more protection against those diseases that the shot is meant to protect against.
Don't feel alone. If medically appropriate, physicians do tend to err on giving more shots than fewer or none at all. The scenario you describe has happened before to others. Sometimes immunizations have been given to patients who reportedly don't have any list of their previous immunizations. Then their "shot record" is later found and the immunizations that have already been given turn out to be "extra".
Although your daughter now needs to get yet another shot to enter pre-k, I would still be sure she gets it. It's always important to be adequately protected. The benefits do tend to outweigh the risks.
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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.