Why immunize our children? Sometimes we are confused by the messages in the media. First we are assured that, thanks to vaccines, some diseases are almost gone from the U.S. But we are also warned to immunize our children, ourselves as adults, and the elderly.
Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations.
It's true, some diseases (like polio and diphtheria) are becoming very rare in the U.S. Of course, they are becoming rare largely because we have been vaccinating against them. But it is still reasonable to ask whether it's really worthwhile to keep vaccinating.
It's much like bailing out a boat with a slow leak. When we started bailing, the boat was filled with water. But we have been bailing fast and hard, and now it is almost dry. We could say, "Good. The boat is dry now, so we can throw away the bucket and relax." But the leak hasn't stopped. Before long we'd notice a little water seeping in, and soon it might be back up to the same level as when we started.
Keep immunizing until disease is eliminated.
Unless we can "stop the leak" (eliminate the disease), it is important to keep immunizing. Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, more and more people will be infected and will spread disease to others. Soon we will undo the progress we have made over the years.
Japan reduced pertussis vaccinations, and an epidemic occurred.
In 1974, Japan had a successful pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination program, with nearly 80% of Japanese children vaccinated. That year only 393 cases of pertussis were reported in the entire country, and there were no deaths from pertussis. But then rumors began to spread that pertussis vaccination was no longer needed and that the vaccine was not safe, and by 1976 only 10% of infants were getting vaccinated. In 1979 Japan suffered a major pertussis epidemic, with more than 13,000 cases of whooping cough and 41 deaths. In 1981 the government began vaccinating with acellular pertussis vaccine, and the number of pertussis cases dropped again.
What if we stopped vaccinating?
So what would happen if we stopped vaccinating here? Diseases that are almost unknown would stage a comeback. Before long we would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. More children would get sick and more would die.
We vaccinate to protect our future.
We don't vaccinate just to protect our children. We also vaccinate to protect our grandchildren and their grandchildren. With one disease, smallpox, we "stopped the leak" in the boat by eradicating the disease. Our children don't have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists. If we keep vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that diseases like polio and meningitis won't infect, cripple, or kill children. Vaccinations are one of the best ways to put an end to the serious effects of certain diseases.
10 Things You Need to Know About Immunizations
1. Why your child should be immunized
Children need immunizations (shots) to protect them from dangerous childhood diseases. These diseases can have serious complications and even kill children. More...
2. Diseases that childhood vaccines prevent
Haemophilus influenzae type b
(Hib disease - a major cause of bacterial meningitis)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human Papillomavirus (Cervarix© brand)
- Human Papillomavirus (Gardasil© brand)
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
(causes bacterial meningitis and blood infections)
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw)
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
- Note: Also available are audio, text-only, and other language versions of the Vaccine Information Sheets.
3. Number of doses your child needs
The following vaccinations are recommended by age two and can be given over five visits to a doctor or clinic:
- 4 doses of diphtheria, tetanus & pertussis vaccine (DTaP)
- 3-4 doses of Hib vaccine (depending on the brand used)
- 4 doses of pneumococcal vaccine
- 3 doses of polio vaccine
- 2 doses of hepatitis A vaccine
- 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine
- 1 dose of measles, mumps & rubella vaccine (MMR)
- 2-3 doses of rotavirus vaccine (depending on the brand used)
- 1 dose of varicella vaccine
- 2-3 doses of influenza vaccine (6 months and older) (number of doses depends on child's birthday)
Recommended doses can also be viewed in chart form. And, concerns about multiple vaccines given in one visit are addressed.
4. Like any medicine, there may be minor side effects
Side effects can occur with any medicine, including vaccines. Depending on the vaccine, these can include: slight fever, rash, or soreness at the site of injection. Slight discomfort is normal and should not be a cause for alarm. Your health care provider can give you additional information. More...
5. It's extremely rare, but vaccines can cause serious reactions -- weigh the risks!
Serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. The risks of serious disease from not vaccinating are far greater than the risks of serious reaction to a vaccination. More...
6. What to do if your child has a serious reaction.
If you think your child is experiencing a persistent or severe reaction, call your doctor or get the child to a doctor right away. Write down what happened and the date and time it happened. Ask your doctor, nurse or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Report form or go to VAERS web site to file this form yourself electronically. More...
7. Why you should not wait to vaccinate
Children under 5 are especially susceptible to disease because their immune systems have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infection. By immunizing on time (by age 2), you can protect your child from disease and also protect others at school or daycare. More...
8. Be sure to track your shots via a health record
A vaccination health record helps you and your health care provider keep your child's vaccinations on schedule. If you move or change providers, having an accurate record might prevent your child from repeating vaccinations he or she has already had. A shot record should be started when your child receives his/her first vaccination and updated with each vaccination visit. More...
9. Some are eligible for free vaccinations
A federal program called Vaccines for Children provides free vaccines to eligible children, including those without health insurance coverage, all those who are enrolled in Medicaid, American Indians and Alaskan Natives and those whose health insurance dues does not cover vaccines and go to Federally Qualified Health Clinics or Rural Health Centers. More...
10. More information is available.
General immunization questions can be answered by
The CDC Contact Center at 1-800-CDC-INFO
(1-800-232-4636) English and Español
- Questions about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases frequently asked by people calling the TTY Service Hotline at 1-888-232-6348 (TTY hotline)