Immunizations (also called vaccinations) are a set of shots given to
infants and children at different ages to help keep them from
developing dangerous childhood diseases. The diseases vaccinations
protect against have serious complications and can even be fatal. Making
sure your child receives immunizations when scheduled is the best way
to help protect your child.
The importance of immunizations
Immunization is key to preventing disease among the general
population. Vaccines benefit both the people who receive them, and the
vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them, because the infection can
no longer spread. In addition, immunizations reduce the number of deaths
and disability from infections, such as whooping cough and chickenpox.
Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults
also need to stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including tetanus
and diphtheria. In addition, those adults who have never had chickenpox
or measles during childhood (nor the vaccines against these specific
diseases) should consider being vaccinated. Childhood illnesses such as
mumps, measles, and chickenpox can cause serious complications in
About guidelines for childhood immunizations
Many childhood diseases can now be prevented by following recommended guidelines for vaccinations:
- Meningococcal vaccine - to protect against meningococcal disease.
- Hep B - to protect against hepatitis B.
- Polio vaccine - to protect against polio.
- DTaP and Tdap - to protect against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Hib vaccine - to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (which causes spinal meningitis).
- MMR - to protect against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
- Pneumococcal vaccine - to protect against pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.
- Varicella - to protect against chickenpox.
- RotaTeq® - to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants.
- Hep A - to prevent viral infection of the liver.
- HPV - to protect females from human papillomavirus, which is linked to cervical cancer.
A child's first vaccination is given at birth. Immunizations are
scheduled throughout childhood, with many beginning within the first few
months of life. By following a regular schedule, and making sure a
child is immunized at the right time, you are ensuring the best defense
against dangerous childhood diseases.
Please visit the Online Resources page for the most up-to-date
guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and
the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Reactions to immunizations
As with any medication, vaccinations may cause reactions, usually in
the form of a sore arm or low-grade fever. Although serious reactions
are rare, they can happen, and your child's physician or nurse may
discuss these with you before giving the shots. However, the risks of
contracting the diseases the immunizations provide protection from are
higher than the risks of having a reaction to the vaccine.
Treating mild reactions to immunizations in children
Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized,
because the shots that keep them from getting serious diseases can also
cause discomfort for a while. Children may experience fussiness, fever,
and pain after they have been immunized.
If more serious symptoms occur, call your child's physician right away. These symptoms may include:
- a large area of redness and swelling around the area where the
injection was given. The skin area may be warm to touch and very tender.
There may also be red streaks coming from the initial site of the
- high fever
- the child is pale or limp
- the child has been crying incessantly for several minutes
- the child has a strange cry that is not normal (a high-pitched cry)
- shaking, twitching, or jerking of the body