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Immunizations - Topic Overview

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.
  • Chickenpox.
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
  • Flu (influenza).
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, or Hib disease.
  • Hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • Pneumococcal disease.
  • Polio.
  • Rotavirus.

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, 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.

Talk to your doctor if you or your child plans to be in a group living situation, like a college dormitory or summer camp. You may want certain shots, like those for meningitis.

What vaccines are recommended for adults?

The vaccines you need as an adult depend not only on your age, lifestyle, overall health, pregnancy status, and travel plans but also on who you are in close contact with and what vaccines you had as a child.

Talk to your doctor about which vaccines you need. Common adult vaccines include:

  • Flu.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Pneumococcal.
  • Shingles.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

In some states, pharmacists can give some of these shots.

What are the side effects of vaccines?

Most side effects from vaccines are minor, if they occur at all. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the reactions that could occur. They may include:

  • Redness, mild swelling, or soreness where the shot was given.
  • A slight fever.
  • Drowsiness, crankiness, and poor appetite.
  • A mild rash 7 to 14 days after chickenpox or measles-mumps-rubella shots.
  • Temporary joint pain after a measles-mumps-rubella shot.

Serious reactions, such as trouble breathing or a high fever are rare. If you or your child has an unusual reaction, call your doctor.

How safe are vaccines?

False claims in the news have made some parents concerned about a link between autism and the shot for measles, mumps, and rubella. But studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.1, 2

Some parents question whether mercury-containing thimerosal (used as a preservative in vaccines) might cause autism. Studies have not found a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.3 Today, all routine childhood vaccines made for the U.S. contain either no thimerosal or only trace amounts.4

Two major government agencies, along with vaccine makers and other groups, watch for, study, and keep track of adverse events that occur after vaccines are given.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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