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.
- Review vaccine information for your child at every age.
- Learn the symptoms and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Read about vaccine safety information, including possible side effects and how vaccines are monitored.
- Refer to easy-to-read immunization schedules.
Why You Should Vaccinate Your Child
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. From January 1 to May 20, 2017, 100 people from 10 states 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 they are vulnerable to serious diseases. Check with your child’s doctor to find out if your baby is due for any vaccinations. You can use this online tool to enter your child’s current record and quickly see if any doses have been skipped or missed. It is important to your child’s health to be up-to-date on immunizations. If you are unsure which vaccines your child needs at any age, you can find out what they need by taking this short quiz.
Vaccines Mean Fewer Missed Work Days and School Days
If your child gets a vaccine-preventable disease, they 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 Top Frequently Asked Questions about Childhood Immunizations page.
Remember, preteens and teens need vaccinations too!
Resources for Parents
- Dr. Ari Brown provides the answers to parent’s most common questions about vaccines in her article Clear Answers and Smart Advice about Your Baby’s Shots
- CDC created a Comprehensive 94-page booklet, Parents' Guide to Childhood Immunizations, to assist parents in understanding how vaccines work, the diseases they protect against, and other common questions.
- The Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia provides complete, up-to-date and reliable information about vaccines to parents and healthcare professionals.
- They have many factsheets about individual vaccine-preventable diseases and common questions about vaccines, such as vaccine ingredients and the recommended childhood schedule.
- Vaccines on the Go: What You Should Know is a mobile app for parents that includes many vaccine topics (autism, thimerosal and too many vaccines), how vaccines are made, and recommended immunization schedules.
- Parents PACK (Possessing, Accessing and Communicating Knowledge about vaccines) is a resource center and monthly newsletter for parents to stay informed about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Voices for Vaccines is a parent-driven organization supported by scientists, doctors, and public health officials that provides parents clear, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease, as well as an opportunity to join the national discussion about the importance of on-time vaccination.
- Vaccinate Your Family: The Next Generation of Every Child by Two (VYF) is a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in families and individuals.
- The CDC Vaccine Safety Website describes the robust system in place in the U.S. to monitor and assure vaccine safety.
- The Immunization Action Coalition created a What If You Don’t Immunize Your Child factsheet for parents describing the consequences for their own children and how their decisions can also affect others.