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Immunization Safety - Topic Overview

Some people question the safety of immunizations for children. Although minor discomfort sometimes follows vaccine injections, research does not support claims that immunizations put a child at any significant risk for harmful side effects. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine information statements list the side effects of each vaccine.

The risk of a serious complication from a disease is far greater than the risk from the vaccine. For example, 1 child in a group of 20 children may die from diphtheria disease. But only 1 child in a group of 14,000 children may have convulsions or shock after getting the DTaP vaccine. And that child would recover fully.1

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Understanding Chickenpox -- the Basics

Chickenpox (varicella), a viral illness characterized by a very itchy red rash, used to be one of the most common infectious diseases of childhood. But as a result of the wide use of vaccinations since the 1990s, it has become so uncommon that many doctors in practice now have never seen it. Chickenpox is usually mild in children, but adults run the risk of serious complications, including bacterial pneumonia. People who have had chickenpox almost always develop lifetime immunity (meaning you...

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully evaluates all vaccines for safety. After a vaccine is approved, the FDA, the CDC, the vaccine maker, and several other agencies watch for any reports of rare or unexpected reactions. Federal law requires health professionals to report any reaction following an immunization to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). For more information about how vaccine safety is checked, see www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html.

Immunizations are safe even if your child:

  • Currently has or is recovering from a minor illness, such as a cold or an ear infection.
  • Has a slight fever.
  • Has had recent exposure to someone with a contagious disease.
  • Was born early (prematurely).
  • Had a mild reaction (such as redness at the site of the injection or a slight fever) from a previous injection.
  • Is currently taking antibiotics.
  • Has had mild allergies or seizures or has a family history of such problems.
  • Has had allergic reactions to penicillin or other antibiotics (except for a history of severe reactions to neomycin or streptomycin).

Immunizations may be given to pregnant women, except for the following:

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • Nasal spray flu vaccine
  • Smallpox
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

Safety of multiple vaccines

Some people have voiced concern about immunizations when multiple vaccines for different diseases are given at the same time. These people fear that harmful side effects are more likely because the child's immune system is not able to combat all of the vaccine organisms at the same time.

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