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A Parent's Guide to Vaccines

Knowing which shots kids need and when can be confusing. Our expert clears it up.




When: Once a year, starting at 6 months, kids should be vaccinated against influenza. Kids 2 and older who do not have asthma or a compromised immune system can get the flu vaccine in nasal spray form.

Why: The flu shot contains killed flu virus, and each version protects against the three most likely strains to infect people that year, based on research of the most active strains worldwide, Glodé says. When scientists get the strains right, research shows, the vaccine can prevent the flu in more than 70% of healthy, young people.


Are Vaccinations Safe?

Vaccines have come a long way since the first one was developed for smallpox more than 200 years ago. Today, research shows they are safer than ever. With side effects usually both mild and infrequent, the advantages far outweigh the risks in terms of protecting a child's health for years to come, Glodé says. "Vaccines must go through rigorous testing before they become available to the public."

Though vaccines as a possible cause of autism has been a topic of dispute for years, study after study has found no such link. "Autism is a very serious disease that needs to be studied, but the evidence connecting it to vaccines just isn't there," says Glodé.

Countless studies back the health benefits of vaccinations. These findings help parents make what most, if not all, kids' health experts say is the right choice: protection through vaccines. 


Vaccination Side Effects

The side effects of vaccines are usually few and far between, and generally mild. If they do happen, here's what parents might see. If you're concerned, call your doctor. 

Hepatitis B: Soreness where the shot was given, fever.

Rotavirus: Irritability, mild diarrhea, vomiting.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP): Fever, fussiness, vomiting, lack of appetite for a few days, fatigue.

Haemophilus Influenzae Type B: Soreness where the shot was given, fever.

Pneumococcal Disease: Drowsiness, soreness where the shot was given, fever, fussiness.

Polio: Soreness where the shot was given.

MMRV: Fever, seizure caused by fever, mild rash, swollen glands.

Hepatitis A: Soreness where the shot was given, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue. 

Flu: Low fever, muscle aches. Very rarely (one or two in a million people), Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause nerve damage.


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Reviewed on July 12, 2012

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