Infants and children need vaccines to protect them from harmful diseases. These diseases can have serious complications, especially for very young children. Our doctor can guide you in determining what vaccines your baby needs and when she needs them.
- If you have a vaccination record card for your child, take it along so the doctors can mark the shots given to her today. If she is getting her first vaccination(s), ask for a card. You will need your children's immunization records to register them for school, child care, athletic teams, and summer camps or to travel. Your child’s vaccines may also be entered into an electronic registry, or “immunization information system.”
- The doctor or nurse will ask you some questions about your child. Be prepared to answer:
- Has your baby had a severe reaction to a previous dose of any vaccine?
Babies often get a sore leg or a mild fever after vaccinations. But let the doctor or nurse know if your baby has ever had a more serious side effect. There are a few uncommon reactions that could be a reason to not give another dose of a vaccine.
- Does your baby have any severe allergies?
A baby who has a severe allergy to a substance that is in a vaccine shouldn’t get that vaccine. (A severe allergy is one that could be life-threatening. Less severe allergies aren’t a problem.) Naturally you can’t be expected to know whether or not your baby is allergic to every substance in every vaccine. All you can do is report any allergies you do know about. Your doctor or nurse will be able to cross-check these against lists of vaccine ingredients. Don’t be too worried about allergies you don’t know about. Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are rare (around 1 in a million), and the doctor is prepared to deal with them if they do occur. Among allergies that you might know about are eggs, gelatin and yeast, which are in certain vaccines, and latex, which might be part of the syringe or in the stopper of a vaccine vial.
- Does your child have an immune system problem?
A child with a suppressed immune system should not get certain (live) vaccines. A suppressed immune system can be caused by diseases such as AIDS, leukemia, or cancer, or by medical treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy, or radiation. Your doctor, nurse, or other provider will be able to help you answer any questions.
- Read the Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for the vaccine(s) your child is set to receive. These sheets explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine. There is a VIS for every vaccine routinely administered to children, 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.
Last reviewed: April 2015