Childhood Vaccines

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are injections (shots), liquids, pills, or nasal sprays that you take to teach the immune system to recognize and defend against harmful germs. The germs could be viruses or bacteria.

Some types of vaccines contain germs that cause disease. But the germs have been killed or weakened enough that they won’t make your child sick. Some vaccines only contain a part of a germ. Other types of vaccines include instructions for your cells to make a protein of the germ.

These different vaccine types all spark an immune response, which helps the body fight off the germs. Your child’s immune system will also remember the germ and attack it if that germ ever invades again. This protection against a certain disease is called immunity.Why do I need to vaccinate my child?

Babies are born with immune systems that can fight most germs, but there are some serious diseases they can’t handle. That’s why they need vaccines to strengthen their immune system.

These diseases once killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. But now with vaccines, your child can get immunity from these diseases without having to get sick. And for a few vaccines, getting vaccinated can actually give you a better immune response than getting the disease would.

Vaccinating your child also protects others. Normally, germs can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick. If enough people get sick, it can lead to an outbreak. But when enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, it’s harder for that disease to spread to others. This means that the entire community is less likely to get the disease.

Community immunity is especially important for the people who can’t get certain vaccines. For example, they may not be able to get a vaccine because they have weakened immune systems. Others may be allergic to certain vaccine ingredients. And newborn babies are too young to get some vaccines. Community immunity can help to protect them all.Are vaccines safe for children?

Vaccines are safe. They must go through extensive safety testing and evaluation before they are approved in the United States.

Some people worry that childhood vaccines could cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But many scientific studies have looked at this and have found no link between vaccines and autism.Can vaccines overload my child’s immune system?

No, vaccines do not overload the immune system. Every day, a healthy child’s immune system successfully fights off thousands of germs. When your child gets vaccines, they are getting weakened or dead germs. So even if they get several vaccines in one day, they are being exposed to a tiny amount of germs compared to what they encounter every day in their environment.When do I need to vaccinate my child?

Your child will get vaccines during well-child visits. They will be given according to the vaccine schedule. This schedule lists which vaccines are recommended for children. It includes who should get the vaccines, how many doses they need, and at what age they should get them. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes the vaccine schedule.

Following the vaccine schedule allows your child to get protection from the diseases at exactly the right time. It gives his or her body the chance to build up immunity before being exposed to these very serious diseases.

Germs and Hygiene

What are germs?

Germs are microorganisms. This means that they can be seen only through a microscope. They can be found everywhere – in the air, soil, and water. There are also germs on your skin and in your body. Many germs live in and on our bodies without causing harm. Some even help us to stay healthy. But some germs can make you sick. Infectious diseases are diseases that are caused by germs.

The main types of germs are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.How do germs spread?

There are different ways that germs can spread, including

  • Through touching a person who has the germs or making other close contact with them, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing cups or eating utensils
  • Through breathing air after a person with the germs coughs or sneezes
  • Through touching the feces (poop) of someone who has the germs, such as changing diapers, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Through touching objects and surfaces that have germs on them, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy and/or childbirth
  • From insect or animal bites
  • From contaminated food, water, soil, or plants

How can I protect myself and others from germs?

You can help protect yourself and others from germs:

  • When you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow
  • Wash your hands well and often. You should scrub them for at least 20 seconds. It is important to do this when you are most likely to get and spread germs:
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
    • After handling pet food or pet treats
    • After touching garbage
  • If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Practice food safety when handling, cooking, and storing food
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects

Lung Diseases

When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen from the air and deliver it to the bloodstream. The cells in your body need oxygen to work and grow. During a normal day, you breathe nearly 25,000 times. People with lung disease have difficulty breathing. Millions of people in the U.S. have lung disease. If all types of lung disease are lumped together, it is the number three killer in the United States.

The term lung disease refers to many disorders affecting the lungs, such as asthma, COPD, infections like influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis, lung cancer, and many other breathing problems. Some lung diseases can lead to respiratory failure.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health

Vaccine Safety

What are vaccines?

Vaccines play an important role in keeping us healthy. They protect us from serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Vaccines are injections (shots), liquids, pills, or nasal sprays that you take to teach your body’s immune system to recognize and defend against harmful germs. The germs could be viruses or bacteria.

Some types of vaccines contain germs that cause disease. But the germs have been killed or weakened enough that they won’t make you sick. Some vaccines only contain a part of a germ. Other types of vaccines include instructions for your cells to make a protein of the germ.

These different vaccine types all spark an immune response, which helps your body fight off the germs. Your immune system will also remember the germ and attack it if that germ ever invades again. This protection against a certain disease is called immunity.

These diseases can be very serious. Because of this, getting immunity from a vaccine is safer than getting immunity by being sick with the disease. And for a few vaccines, getting vaccinated can actually give you a better immune response than getting the disease would.Do vaccines cause side effects?

As with medicines, any vaccine can cause side effects. Most of the time the side effects are minor, such as a sore arm, fatigue, or mild fever. They usually go away within a few days. These common side effects are often a sign that your body is starting to build immunity against a disease.

Serious side effects from vaccines can happen, but they are very rare. These side effects could include a severe allergic reaction. Other possible side effects are different for each vaccine. Talk with your health care provider if you’re concerned about your health after getting vaccinated.

Some people worry that childhood vaccines could cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But many scientific studies have looked at this and have found no link between vaccines and ASD.How are vaccines tested for safety?

Every vaccine that is approved in the United States goes through extensive safety testing. It starts with testing and evaluation of the vaccine before it’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This process can often take several years.

  • First, the vaccine is tested in labs. Based on those tests, the FDA decides whether to test the vaccine with people.
  • Testing with people is done through clinical trials. In these trials, the vaccines are tested on volunteers. Clinical trials usually start with 20 to 100 volunteers, but eventually include thousands of volunteers.
  • The clinical trials have three phases. The trials are looking for the answer to important questions such as
    • Is the vaccine safe?
    • What dose (amount) works best?
    • How does the immune system react to it?
    • How effective is it?
  • During the process, the FDA works closely with the company who makes the vaccine to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. If the vaccine is found to be safe and effective, it will be approved and licensed by the FDA.
  • After a vaccine is licensed, experts may consider adding it to the recommended vaccine, or immunization, schedule. This schedule is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It lists which vaccines are recommended for different groups of people. They list which age groups should get which vaccines, how many doses they need, and when they should get them.

Testing and monitoring continue after the vaccine is approved:

  • The company making the vaccines tests every batch of vaccines for quality and safety. The FDA reviews the results of these tests. It also inspects the factories where the vaccine is made. These checks help make sure the vaccines meet standards for quality and safety.
  • The FDA, CDC, and other federal agencies continue to monitor its safety, to watch for possible side effects. They have systems to track any safety issues with the vaccines.

These high safety standards and testing help to make sure that vaccines in the United States are safe. Vaccines help protect against serious, even deadly, diseases. They not only protect you, but also help to keep these diseases from spreading to others.

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