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Are Extra Doses of Vaccines Harmful?
Q: My ex-husband took our son to the doctor. They gave him a round of shots that he had already been given a year ago, because they didn't have complete shot records. Is this harmful to him?
A: I don't know the age of your son, so I can't be sure of which shots he was given, but, in general, it is not harmful to give extra doses of the routine childhood vaccines. The schedule for these vaccines was devised to try and make sure that most people would be protected against those diseases with the smallest number of doses. An extra dose will only stimulate the immune system to be even more protective.
Remember that vaccines used in this country are incredibly safe. There is no increased risk of side effects in an otherwise healthy child. In fact, when children come to this country from overseas, and the shot record cannot be found, the official recommendation of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is to start the series over again. The major drawback for the patient is the discomfort of getting the extra injections.
Parents should maintain some sort of immunization booklet for their children, so that this information can be shared to a new provider when families move. Currently, in some communities, a computerized immunization record has been developed that can be viewed by schools and health care providers in that community in order to verify immunization doses and dates.
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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.