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A Parent's Guide to Kids' Vaccines


Ask about conditions under which your child should not be vaccinated. This might include being sick or having a history of certain allergic or other adverse reactions to previous vaccinations or their components. For example, eggs are used to grow influenza (flu) vaccines, so a child who is allergic to eggs should not get a flu vaccine. Children or others with weakened or incompetent immune systems should not receive live vaccines, but may be able to receive toxoids, inactivated (killed) or subunit vaccines. You should discuss these issues with your health care provider.

Report adverse reactions. Adverse reactions and other problems related to vaccines should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which is maintained by FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For a copy of the vaccine reporting form, call 1-800-822-7967, or report online VAERS.

Some Commonly Used Vaccines

Some of the vaccines commonly used are briefly discussed below. A complete list of licensed vaccines in the United States and supporting documents, such as package inserts, are available online.

 Diphtheria and Tetanus Toxoids and Acellular Pertussis Adsorbed (DTaP)

What it's for: Protects (immunizes) against the bacterial infections diphtheria, tetanus (Lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough). This combination vaccine is given as a five dose series in infants and children six weeks through six years of age. Diphtheria can infect the throat, causing a thick covering that can lead to problems with breathing, paralysis, or heart failure. Tetanus can cause painful tightening (spasms) of the muscles, seizures, paralysis, and death. Pertussis causes severe coughing spells and can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.

Common side effects: Fever, redness, soreness, or swelling at the injection site, fussiness/irritability, inconsolable crying, and decreased activity/lethargy.

Tell your health care provider beforehand if: Your child is moderately or severely ill, has had a severe reaction to a previous shot, or has a known sensitivity to ingredients of the vaccine, including latex.


Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine Adsorbed

What it's for: Protects (immunizes) against the bacterial infections diphtheria, tetanus (Lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough). Active booster immunization of individuals ages 10 or 11 years (dependent on product used) through 64 years of age.

Common side effects: Pain, swelling, and redness at injection site, headache, body ache or muscle weakness, sore or swollen joints, tiredness or fatigue, nausea or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Tell your health care provider beforehand if: The individual has had any allergic reaction to any vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis diseases, any ingredient contained in the vaccine, including latex.


Haemophilus b Conjugate Vaccine (tetanus Toxoid Conjugate) (Hib) 

What it's for: Protects (immunizes) against Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, which can cause meningitis (an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord which can cause brain damage and deafness), pneumonia (lung infection), severe swelling of the throat, and infections of the blood, joints, bones, and covering of the heart. Approved for infants and children 2 through 18 months of age.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA