We do thousands of childhood vaccinations and thousands of surgeries every year at Akron Children’s Hospital. But you might not know that vaccines and surgeries don’t go together.
Surgery and anesthesia can interact with vaccines that are given close to the surgery date. One of the effects that surgery and anesthesia has on the body is a temporary decrease in the immune system.
Think of it like this: the immune system is doing its job as always and all of a sudden an operation occurs. This makes the immune system sleepy, in a sense, and a bit less able to handle other things that might come around, such as a cough or cold.
It is similar when vaccines are given before surgery. There’s a chance the vaccines won’t work as well because the immune system is temporarily less able to respond as it should to vaccines by producing adequate and efficient antibodies.
There also is a risk that kids who receive certain vaccines just before surgery could give that virus to other kids in the hospital who are very sick and have compromised immune systems.
So, what should be done?
The Department of Anesthesia and Pain Medicine has reviewed our policies and those of other health systems. We reviewed the most recent medical literature, and discussed recommendations with our pediatricians, surgeons and infectious disease specialists.
Our updated recommendations are:
- Inactivated vaccines (not live) may be given up to 3 days prior to ELECTIVE surgery/procedure. Most vaccines are inactivated.
- Live attenuated vaccines (including rotavirus, varicella and MMR) may be given up to 14 days prior to ELECTIVE surgery/procedure.
- Postoperative/procedure vaccine administration can occur once the child returns to baseline health and has recovered from the procedure, at the surgical/procedural team’s discretion. Suggested wait time is between 1-4 weeks, depending on the extent and nature of surgery/procedure.
For patients, who received blood products or immunoglobulins, the recommended waiting time for varicella and MMR vaccination is up to 7 months.
Most surgeries are scheduled, which allows parents and physicians to plan vaccinations accordingly. When emergency surgery is necessary, vaccination status should not delay treatment.
Vaccines are proven to prevent diseases, such as polio and pertussis. Not so many years ago, those diseases were serious and common.
The bottom line is that if you know your child is scheduled for surgery in the near future, please talk to your primary care physician about the best time to have your child vaccinated. We need your involvement to help us keep your child healthy and safe.