The importance of immunizations

Immunization is key to preventing disease. Vaccines help both the people who receive them and the unvaccinated people around them, because the vaccine stops disease from spreading. Immunizations also reduce the number of deaths and disability from illnesses like whooping cough and chicken pox.

Although children receive most 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 chicken pox or measles during childhood and have not been vaccinated against these diseases should consider being vaccinated. Childhood illnesses such as mumps, measles and chicken pox can cause serious health problems in adults.

Many childhood diseases can be prevented by following recommended guidelines for vaccinations. The Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians have approved a series of vaccinations for all children to protect them against diseases:

  • MMR - to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles)
  • Polio vaccine (IPV) - to protect against poliovirus
  • DTaP - to protect against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hib vaccine - to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (which causes spinal meningitis)
  • HBV - to protect against hepatitis B
  • Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV7) - to protect against pneumonia, infection in blood and meningitis
  • Varicella - to protect against chicken pox

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website for the most up-to-date recommendations and information about immunizations.

Reactions to immunizations:

Vaccines are generally safe. They do not cause the diseases they are meant to prevent and there is no research to support a link to autism or other developmental disorders. Most reactions are mild. These include a low-grade fever or soreness where the shot was given.

Some individuals should not receive vaccines and serious reactions are rare but possible. However, for most people, the risks of catching the diseases are higher than the risks of having a reaction to the vaccines. Your child's doctor or nurse is required to give you a written vaccine information statement before giving the shots. The VIS discusses the contraindications and risks of the vaccine.

Treating mild reactions to immunizations in children:

  • Fussiness, fever and pain
    DO NOT EVER GIVE ASPIRIN. Do not give aspirin to a child who has fever without first contacting the child's physician. Aspirin, when given as treatment for viral fevers in children, has been associated with Reye syndrome, a potentially serious or deadly disorder in children. Therefore, pediatricians and other healthcare providers recommend that aspirin not be used to treat any fever in children. Consult your health care provider regarding appropriate use and dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized
  • Fever
    Give your child plenty to drink
    • Clothe your child lightly. Do not cover or wrap your child tightly
    • Sponge your child in a few inches of lukewarm (not cold) bath water
  • Swelling or pain
    Local reactions are common. A clean, cool washcloth may be applied over the sore area as needed for comfort. Contact your doctor if the swelling does not begin to improve in two to three days

Call your child's physician right away.if more serious symptoms occur. These symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • The child is pale or limp
  • The child has been crying nonstop for several minutes
  • The child has a strange cry that is not normal (a high-pitched cry)
  • Shaking, twitching or jerking of the body
  • Breathing problems
  • Hives (a widespread rash on the body)
  • Severe swelling and pain at the site of the shot