Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to common questions you may have about diseases, vaccines and our processes.

Q: "Why are vaccines needed if the diseases they prevent are not as common anymore?"

A: Vaccines are still needed because the bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases still exist. Vaccines have protected children and continue to protect children from getting these diseases. In the United States many diseases are not as common or widespread as they used to be thanks to better nutrition, less crowded living conditions, better sanitation, antibiotics, and, most importantly, vaccines.

Vaccines also are needed to protect children from diseases that may be brought into the United States from people who have visited or are visiting from other countries. Many vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. Travelers may be carriers of these diseases without them knowing they are infected. Influenza is an example of a disease that is transmitted between countries every year.

Q: "Do vaccines even work? Most of the people who get these diseases have been vaccinated."

A: Yes. Vaccines work extremely well. Millions of children have been protected from serious illnesses such as polio, whooping cough, measles, tetanus, and diphtheria because parents have had their children immunized. Most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease. They are even more effective in reducing disease severity. Occasionally a few children may not develop the desired protection after receiving a vaccine.

But to not vaccinate your child gives them no protection from the possibility of getting one of these deadly diseases.

Q: "I've heard that some children have serious side effects from vaccines. Are vaccines safe for my child?"

A: Vaccines are safe, and severe reactions to vaccines are very rare. Mild reactions to vaccines do occur, but they do not last long. There may be some swelling, redness, and discomfort where the shot was given. Your child may have a low-grade fever and be fussy afterward. Symptoms of more serious reactions are much less common. Call your child's pediatrician right away if your child has a

  • Very high fever (103°F)
  • Generalized rash (including hives)
  • Large amount of swelling around the shot or in the limb used for the shot

Your child's pediatrician can decide whether your child should receive future doses of the same vaccine.

Children with certain health problems may need to avoid some vaccines or get them later. For example, children with cancer, those taking steroids for lung or kidney conditions, or those who have problems with their immune systems in most cases should not receive vaccines like the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) or chickenpox vaccine. These are not safe for children with these health problems because the vaccine is made with weakened live viruses. For children with seizures, the pertussis part of the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine may need to be delayed.

Ask your child's pediatrician when the vaccine can be given.

Remember, immunizations are an important part of your child's total health care. Immunize your child on time, and keep your child's immunization record up to date. Make sure you take your child to the pediatrician's office or a health clinic on a regular basis.