If you have a personal vaccination record, take it along so the provider can mark the shots given to you that day. If you do not have one or cannot find it, ask for a card. This record could come in handy later if you travel, move, or switch providers.
Review the Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for the vaccines you are scheduled to receive. These sheets explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine. There is a VIS for every vaccine, and many are available in languages other than English. Health care providers are required by law to provide them. .
For more detailed information, you may also want to review the FDA-approved labeling for each vaccine. You can find them on the Vaccine Approvals page.
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 people are surprised to learn that vaccine-preventable diseases can cause serious long-term problems or death.
Tell your health care provider if you have ever had a reaction to a vaccine. If you have 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 given again.
Tell your provider if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Ask about conditions under which you should not be vaccinated. This might include being sick or having a history of certain allergic or other adverse reactions to previous vaccines or their components. You should discuss these issues with your health care provider.
Your provider should give you a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for each vaccine you receive. VIS contain useful information about the vaccine, including its risks and benefits. If you would like to review these VIS before the office visit, you can . There is a VIS for each vaccine, and many of them are also available in languages other than English.
Always ask your provider if you have any questions or would like more information.
Taking deep breaths and relaxing your muscles will make vaccination less painful. If needles make you nervous, avoid looking at the syringe as your health provider is vaccinating.
Be sure that any vaccinations that are given get recorded in your vaccine record.
Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days.
A non-aspirin pain reliever may be taken to reduce any pain or fever that might follow vaccinations. Drink lots of fluids to help reduce a fever. A cool, wet washcloth over the sore area can help relieve pain.
A severe allergic reaction to a vaccine is very unlikely, but if one were to occur, be ready to respond to it:
If an allergic reaction occurs, it will usually happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
Pay attention to any unusual condition, such as a high fever, weakness, or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include:
hoarseness or wheezing
a fast heart beat
If you show these signs, call a doctor right away.
Be ready to tell the doctor when the reaction occurred, what vaccinations were given, and when.
Vaccines, like any medication, may cause side effects. If you think that you or your child does have a serious reaction, first contact your doctor or other health care provider. Then, if you would like to learn more, read about the two programs below—VAERS and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Most people will never need these programs, but they are there if you do.
VAERS. This stands for the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. It is a system for reporting adverse events following receipt of a vaccine. If you or your child has an unusual medical condition within a few days after getting a vaccine, you or your provider should report it to VAERS even if you don’t know whether it was related to the vaccine. One of the jobs of VAERS is to collect these reports and use the data to help identify serious adverse reactions that may require further investigation. Your provider will usually file a VAERS report for you. For more information, see the VAERS website at www.vaers.hhs.gov.
Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. If you believe your child was seriously injured by a vaccine, there is a no-fault federal program that can help compensate you for his or her care. To learn more about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, see their website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.
Glossary of Terms
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Allergy: A condition in which the body has an exaggerated response to a substance (e.g. food or drug). Also known as hypersensitivity.
Hives: The eruption of red marks on the skin that are usually accompanied by itching. This condition can be caused by an allergy (e.g. to food or drugs), stress, infection or physical agents (e.g. heat or cold). Also known as uticaria.