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The Importance of Immunizations (Vaccines) for Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

Why immunization is important:

Immunization helps your child become immune (protected) from diseases caused by bacteria or viruses. It also helps protect others around him or her. Without immunization, the only way to become immune is to get the disease. This is dangerous because your child can develop medical problems from the disease that may be long-term or difficult to treat. Immunization helps control diseases and prevents them from coming back after they are controlled.

Immunization Schedule

How immunization is done:

Inactivated (killed) or weakened forms of viruses or bacteria may be used. Pieces of protein from a virus may be used to teach your child's immune system to recognize the virus. Vaccines are usually given as shots or nasal sprays. The vaccine will cause your child's body to produce antibodies. Antibodies are part of your child's immune system. Your child's immune system will recognize the virus or bacteria if he or she is exposed again. The system will produce the same antibodies to prevent the disease.

Diseases that can be prevented by vaccines:

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and influenza (flu)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles and mumps
  • Meningococcus
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia
  • Polio
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)

What you need to know about immunization:

  • You will get a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for each vaccine your child receives. The VIS will explain what the vaccine is for and its risks and benefits. You may be able to read the VIS before your child receives the vaccine. The VIS may be printed or delivered electronically to you.
  • Some vaccines are given on a recommended schedule. Your child may need some vaccines each year to protect him or her from new forms of a virus, such as the flu. He or she will receive several vaccines, starting a few weeks after birth. He or she will need 2 or more doses of each vaccine. Some of the vaccines are combined. He or she may also need boosters. Follow the immunization schedule your child's healthcare provider gives you, or bring your child in for catch-up doses.
  • Some vaccines will protect your child when he or she is older. For example, hepatitis A is not usually a risk for children. Immunization will help protect your child from it when he or she is an adult.
  • Some vaccines are only given for certain situations. Your child may need rabies vaccines if he or she is bitten by an animal that can carry rabies. He or she may need certain vaccines if he or she is traveling to another country. Tell his or her healthcare provider as far as possible before your child travels. The vaccines may take several weeks to become effective.
  • Vaccines will not increase your child's risk for autism. Some parents worry that vaccines increase the risk for autism. Research shows there is no connection between vaccines and autism. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if you have concerns about the risk for autism.
  • Keep a record of the vaccines your child receives. Your healthcare provider may also keep electronic records. Records will help you make sure your child receives all the vaccines he or she needs, and at the right times. He or she may need the records to be able to enroll in school or college, or to play sports. Bring the record with you to each immunization visit.

Risks of immunization:

Rarely, a vaccine can cause the person to become sick with the disease. The area where your child got the shot may be red, swollen, or sore. These effects are usually mild and go away in a few hours. Vaccines can cause allergic reactions in some people. Tell your child's healthcare provider about all of his or her allergies. Tell him or her if your child has a weakened immune system. Your child will not be able to get the live forms of vaccines. Vaccines can also cause other serious health problems, such as swelling in your child's brain, or paralysis.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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