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Vaccines and Your Child's Immune System

As a parent, you may get upset or concerned when you watch your baby get 3 or 4 shots during a doctor's visit. But, all of those shots add up to your baby being protected against 14 infectious diseases. Young babies can get very ill from vaccine-preventable diseases. The vaccination schedule is designed to protect young children before they are likely to be exposed to potentially serious diseases and when they are most vulnerable to serious infections.

Vaccination begins at birth with hepatitis B vaccine because giving that vaccine early is the best way to start immediate protection against a hepatitis B infection. Infants who are infected at birth can develop serious liver disease - which can lead to death - when they are adults. A woman who has hepatitis B can pass the virus to her newborn during childbirth. Unfortunately, many people with the hepatitis B virus do not know they have it because they do not have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. Starting vaccination at birth provides protection from a hepatitis infection that can happen later in childhood or adulthood.

Although children continue to get several vaccines up to their second birthday, these vaccines do not overload the immune system. Every day, your healthy baby's immune system successfully fights off millions of antigens-the parts of germs that cause the body's immune system to respond. The antigens in vaccines come from weakened or killed germs so they cannot cause serious illness. Vaccines contain only a tiny amount of the antigens that your baby encounters every day, even if your child receives several vaccines in one day.

As children get older, they require additional doses of some vaccines for best protection. Older kids also need to be protected against additional diseases they may encounter. Learn more about vaccines for your pre-teens and teens.

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For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children.
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