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A Parent's Guide to Kids' Vaccines

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Scientists discovered that in some cases, the entire virus or bacteria is not required to elicit protective immunity and prevent disease; just a portion or a "subunit" of the disease-causing bacteria or virus is needed to provide protection. One example of a subunit inactivated vaccine is the Hepatitis B Vaccine, Recombinant.

Some bacteria cause illness by secreting a poison or toxin. Scientists discovered that inactivating the toxins, to create toxoids, and administering the toxoid can also protect individuals against the disease. One example of a toxoid vaccine is the Diphtheria toxoid vaccine.

Vaccines are available as single valent (one strain), multi-valent (several strains such as the seasonal influenza vaccine which has three strains of influenza) or combination vaccines (more than one virus or bacteria, such as MMR which contains measles, mumps and rubella viruses).

Steps to Take When Your Child is Vaccinated

Review the vaccine information sheets. These sheets explain to vaccine recipients, their parents, or their legal representatives both the benefits and risks of a vaccine. Health care providers are required by law to provide them.

Talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks of vaccines. Learn the facts about the benefits and risks, along with the potential consequences of not vaccinating against certain diseases. Some parents are surprised to learn that children can die of measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Tell your health care provider about bad reactions. Before you or your child receives a vaccine, tell your health care provider if you, your child, or a sibling has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine. If your child or a sibling has had an allergic reaction or other severe reaction to a dose of vaccine, talk with your health care provider about whether that vaccine should be taken again.

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.

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