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Immunizations help protect you or your child from disease. Most are given as shots. They are sometimes called vaccines, or vaccinations.
Here are some common questions that parents ask about these shots:
Ask your doctor what shots your child should get. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a list of shots needed for each age group.
Widespread immunizations in the U.S. have led to a sharp drop in diseases. Better living conditions have also helped, but they aren't enough to protect you from disease.
Your child's body is prepared to fight disease better and faster if your child has had the infection before or if your child gets immunized.
Dangerous diseases, such as polio, still exist in other countries. Travelers can bring them into the U.S. So it's still very important to have your child immunized.
False claims in the news have made some parents concerned about a link between autism and vaccines. But studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.1, 2
Most side effects from vaccines are minor, if they occur at all.
The area where the shot was given may be sore. And some children may be fussy or get a slight fever. Your doctor or pharmacist can explain the reactions that could occur.
People who are allergic to eggs may have a reaction to the flu vaccine, which contains egg protein. If your child has an egg allergy, ask the doctor if your child can still get the flu vaccine.
Serious side effects are very rare. It's much more dangerous to risk getting the diseases than to risk having a serious reaction to the vaccines.
No. Combined vaccines have no greater risk for side effects than a single vaccine does.3
Some parents worry about their children getting several vaccines at the same time. They worry that a child's immune system can't handle all those vaccine organisms at the same time.
Getting more than one shot may seem like a lot for a child's body to handle. But babies have billions of immune system cells that are hard at work all the time, fighting the many thousands of germs they're exposed to every day.
More and more vaccines are being combined into a single shot, such as the measles-mumps-rubella shot. This means fewer shots need to be given. Even though the vaccines are combined, each gives the same protection as it would if it were given alone.
On very rare occasions, your doctor may suggest waiting to have your child immunized. For example, you may need to wait when your child has:
But children usually can still get a shot even when they have a minor illness. This includes a cold or an ear infection. And children usually can still get a shot when they are taking antibiotics.
Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about having your child immunized.
Demicheli V, et al. (2008). Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Vaccine safety: Thimerosal. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/thimerosal.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book),
12th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation.
Also available online:
February 16, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & William Atkinson, MD, MPH - Public Health and Preventive Medicine
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