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Childhood vaccine information for parents and caregivers

Protecting your child’s health is very important to you. Most parents choose vaccination because nothing protects children better from 16 serious childhood diseases. Vaccination is the powerful defense that’s safe, proven, and effective.

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Reasons to vaccinate your child

Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly – especially in infants and young children.

Parents can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule – giving their child the vaccines they need, when they need them.

Learn about 14 vaccine-preventable diseases and how to protect your child from them with immunization by age 2.

Visit this vaccine site for parents  to learn more about vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccine information.

Serious diseases are still out there

Vaccines are one of the top public health achievements of the 20th century because they have reduced or even eliminated many diseases. Thanks to vaccines, most young parents have never seen the devastating effects diseases like polio, measles, or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a child, family, or community. It’s easy to think these are diseases of the past, but they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases. In fact, when vaccination rates are low in a community, it’s not uncommon to have an outbreak.

Diseases don’t stop at the border, and many can spread easily

You may have never seen a case of polio or diphtheria, but these diseases still occur in other countries. For example, measles is rare in the United States because of vaccination, but it is still common around the world. Unvaccinated travelers who are infected while abroad can easily bring the diseases to the United States.

After reaching the U.S., measles can spread quickly among unvaccinated people. In 2014, the United States had a record number of measles cases and many were associated with cases brought from the Philippines, which experienced a large measles outbreak. Most of these people were not vaccinated or didn’t know if they were vaccinated and nearly all the cases were associated with international travel. In 2019 alone, 1,044 individuals from 26 states and the District of Colombia were reported to have measles. The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.

Vaccines are the safe, proven choice

The United States currently has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Before a vaccine is approved and given to children, it is tested extensively. Scientists and medical professionals carefully evaluate all the available information about the vaccine to determine its safety and effectiveness. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated.

Although your child may experience some discomfort or tenderness at the injection site, this is minor compared to the serious complications that can result from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare. Learn ways to make you and your child’s shot visit less stressful.

Nearly all children can be safely vaccinated, but there are exceptions and some children may not be able to receive some vaccines:

  • Children with allergies to something in a vaccine.
  • Children with weakened immune systems due to an illness or a medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.

Children need protection early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) also approve this schedule. The recommended childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable.

To be fully immunized, children need all doses of all vaccines in the recommended schedule. If your child does not receive the full number of doses he or she is vulnerable to serious diseases. Check with your child’s doctor to find out if your baby is due for any vaccinations. You can take this short quiz to answer 7 quick questions and see which vaccines your child may need. It is important to your child’s health to be up-to-date on immunizations.

Vaccination protects your family, friends, and community

Vaccines mean fewer missed work days and school days

If your child gets a vaccine-preventable disease, he or she may have to miss school or day care for many days or weeks. Time lost from work to care for a sick child can burden your family financially. Many vaccine-preventable diseases can also cause lasting disabilities that result in expensive medical bills and long-term care.

Vaccination protects your family, friends, and community

Getting your child vaccinated helps protect others in your community—like your neighbor who has cancer and cannot get certain vaccines, or your best friend’s newborn baby who is too young to be fully immunized. When everyone in a community who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, it prevents the spread of disease and can slow or stop an outbreak. Choosing to protect your child with vaccines is a choice to protect your family, friends, and neighbors, too. This is a concept known as herd immunity.

For common questions on infant and child immunizations, please visit our common questions about childhood immunizations page.

Remember, preteens and teens need vaccinations too!

Resources for parents and caregivers

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