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What are the Reasons to Vaccinate My Baby?

Raising a child comes with many decisions. Some are a matter of taste, like what color to paint the nursery. Others are essential, especially when it comes to safety, like baby proofing your home for potential hazards. But, what about the hazards that you can't see and that can cause serious illness, disability or even death in young children? Immunization gives you the power to protect your baby from 14 serious childhood diseases.

There are many reasons to vaccinate.

Serious Diseases Are Still Out There

Reducing and eliminating the diseases that vaccines prevent is one of the top achievements in the history of public health. But, because of this success, most young parents have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It's easy to think of these as diseases that only existed in the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases. In fact, when vaccination rates drop in a community, it's not uncommon to have an outbreak.

For example, preliminary data for 2012 show that more than 41,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States.  During this time, 18 deaths have been reported—the majority of these deaths were in children younger than 3 months of age. Learn about recent outbreaks of pertussis in the US.

Diseases Don't Stop at the Border, and Many Can Spread Easily

You may have never seen a case of polio or diphtheria, but they still occur in other countries. All it takes is a plane ride for these diseases to arrive in your community.

Vaccines are the Safe, Proven Choice

Have More Questions, Need Fast Answers?

Visit this vaccine site for parents, designed with the help of parents.

  • Review vaccine information for your child at every age
  • Learn the symptoms and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Read about vaccine safety information, including possible side effects and how safety is monitored
  • Refer to easy-to-read immunization schedules

The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. Before a vaccine is approved and given to children, it is tested extensively. Scientists and medical professionals carefully evaluate all the available information about the vaccine to determine its safety and effectiveness. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are updated.

Although there may be some discomfort or tenderness at the injection site, this is minor compared to the serious complications that can result from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects from vaccines are very rare.

Nearly all children can be safely vaccinated. There are some exceptions including children with allergies to something in a vaccine. Children with weakened immune systems due to an illness or a medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, also may not be able to safely receive some vaccines.

Children Need Protection Early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—a group of medical and public health experts. This schedule also is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The recommended childhood immunization schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable.

To be fully immunized, children need all doses of the vaccines according to the recommended schedule. Not receiving the full number of doses leaves a child vulnerable to catching serious diseases. Check with your child's doctor to find out if your baby is due for any vaccinations. Or, you can use this online tool to enter your child's current record and quickly see if any doses have been skipped or missed. It is important to your child's health to be up-to-date on immunizations.

Vaccines Mean Fewer Missed Work Days and School Days

Photo: A mother and childA child who gets a vaccine-preventable disease may have to miss school or day care for many days or weeks. Time lost from work to care for a sick child can cause a financial burden for the family. These diseases can also cause lasting disabilities that result in expensive medical bills and long-term care.

Vaccination Protects Your Family, Friends, and Community

Getting your child vaccinated helps protect others in your community—like your neighbor who has cancer and cannot get certain vaccines, or your best friend's newborn baby who is too young to be fully vaccinated. When everyone in a community who can get vaccinated does get vaccinated, it helps to prevent the spread of disease and can slow or stop an outbreak. Choosing to protect your child with vaccines is also a choice to help protect your family, friends, and neighbors, too.

Immunization Helps Give You the Power to Protect Your Baby

For more reasons to vaccinate, talk with your child's doctor, call 800-CDC-INFO, or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/.

Need Help Paying For Immunization?

If you don't have health insurance or if your insurance doesn't cover vaccinations, the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program may be able to help with the cost. VFC helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to immunization. The program provides vaccinations at no cost for the vaccine itself, although an administration fee may apply. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are:

  • Medicaid-eligible
  • Uninsured
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Underinsured and vaccinated in Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Clinics.
  • Page last reviewed: July 8, 2013
  • Page last updated: July 8, 2013
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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