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Vaccines for kids

A young boy smiles and shows his biceps to a doctor. He has an adhesive bandage on his arm.

Being properly immunized is essential to your child's health.

Having a seriously ill child is any parent's nightmare. But it's worse if you realize you could have prevented your child's disease.

That's one reason why vaccines are so important. They can help prevent many serious diseases.

Children who aren't immunized at the right times are more likely to develop an illness that could cause problems such as brain damage, blindness, deafness, paralysis or even death.

But by doing your part and making sure your kids get the shots they need, you're improving their odds for a healthy childhood.

The road to a healthier child

Kids should get their first vaccines at birth and at 2 months. Most remaining shots are given within the first two years. Some are given much later.

Kids who are behind on their shots can catch up to be protected.

Regular doctor visits are the best way to make sure your child gets the vaccines he or she needs.

Getting a vaccine is simple

Vaccines work by causing the body to produce antibodies that attack disease.

Shots may be a little painful and cause your child to cry. After the shot, the area where it was given may be red and swollen. And the child may be fussy or have a fever for a day or two.

Your doctor will advise you of symptoms of a more serious reaction to a vaccine.

Are there any dangers from vaccines?

Reactions to vaccines are possible. But they are rare. The risk of a serious reaction is much less than the risks from the diseases vaccines protect against. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

Some kids should not get certain vaccines. If your child has certain types of diseases or has a decreased ability to fight infection, talk to your doctor before getting vaccines.

Kids who have allergies to eggs or who have had serious reactions to other shots should visit their doctor before getting a vaccine.

Vaccines make a difference

Your child should get vaccines to protect against these diseases:

  • Measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). One vaccine protects against all three diseases. It's given in two shots.
  • Polio. This vaccine is generally given in four shots.
  • Pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal bacteria can cause ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia and the blood infection bacteremia. The vaccine is given in a series of four shots.
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. One vaccine protects against all three diseases. It's given in a series of shots.
  • Hib. This prevents serious infections like meningitis and pneumonia. The Hib vaccine is given in a series.
  • Hepatitis. Kids need two shots to protect against hepatitis A and a series of three or four shots to protect against hepatitis B.
  • Chickenpox. A first dose is given after babies are 1 year old. A second dose is given later in childhood.
  • Flu. Kids 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine each year.
  • Meningococcal disease. This protects against meningitis and blood infections.
  • Rotavirus. This virus causes most cases of vomiting and severe diarrhea in kids. The vaccine is given in a series of two or three doses.
  • HPV. HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Both boys and girls should get this vaccine.
  • COVID-19. Kids can get very sick from COVID-19. Make sure your child stays up-to-date. 

Vaccines are easy to get

Your child's doctor will keep a record of which shots your child has had. You may want to keep track at home too.

You can get your kids immunized even if you can't afford the vaccines. Check with your child's doctor for information.

Learn more

You can find the recommended schedule for childhood immunizations for kids up to 6 years old at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Reviewed 4/15/2024

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