What are immunizations?
Immunizations help protect
you or your child from disease. They also help reduce the spread of disease to
others and prevent epidemics. Most are given as shots. They are sometimes
called vaccines, or vaccinations.
In many cases when you get a
vaccine, you get a tiny amount of a weakened or dead form of the organism that
causes the disease. This amount is not enough to give you the actual disease.
But it is enough to cause your
immune system to make
antibodies that can recognize and attack the organism
if you are ever exposed to it.
Sometimes a vaccine does not
completely prevent the disease, but it will make the disease much less serious
if you do get it.
Some immunizations are given only one time.
Others require several doses over time.
Why should you get immunized?
- Immunizations protect you or your child from dangerous
- They help reduce the spread of disease to others.
- Getting immunized costs less than getting treated for the
diseases that the shots protect you from.
- Vaccines have very few serious side effects.
- They are often needed for entrance into school or day care. And
they may be needed for employment or for travel to another country.
If you are a woman who is planning to get pregnant, talk
to your doctor about what immunizations you have had and what you may need to
protect your baby. And if you live with a pregnant woman, make sure your
vaccines are up-to-date.
Traveling to other countries may be
another reason to get immunized. Talk with your doctor months before
you leave, to see if you need any shots.
What immunizations are recommended for children and adolescents?
Ask your doctor what shots your child should get.
The immunization schedule includes vaccines for:
- Bacterial meningitis.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (also known as whooping
- Flu (influenza). This vaccine is not given to children younger
than 6 months.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b disease,
or Hib disease.
- Hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Pneumococcal disease.
Immunizations start right after birth, and many are given
throughout a baby's first 23 months. Booster shots (the later doses of any
vaccines that need to be repeated over time) occur throughout life.
Fewer immunizations are needed after age 6. But older children and teens
need shots too (such as those for bacterial meningitis and for tetanus,
diphtheria, and whooping cough). Some shots are also given during adulthood
(such as a tetanus shot).
It is important to keep a good
record(What is a PDF document?),
including a list of any reactions to the vaccines. When you enroll your child
in day care or school, you may need to show proof of immunizations. Your child
may also need the record later in life for college, employment, or travel.