Washing our hands. Stopping at red traffic lights. Saying yes to vaccines. What do these things have in common? They all help keep your family—and your community—healthy and safe.
When you and your children get vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourselves. You’re also doing your part to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. Some people can’t receive vaccines due to their age or health conditions, and they rely on the rest of us for protection.
But many still remain skeptical about the value of vaccines. They may wonder whether the vaccines are really necessary. Or they may worry about possible risks and side effects. If you share some of these concerns, here are the facts you need to make an informed choice about vaccines for your family.
- Are Vaccines Still Necessary?
You might think diseases such as polio, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), and measles are things of the past. But while vaccines have greatly reduced the occurrence of these diseases, the viruses and bacteria that cause the diseases still exist. If vaccination rates fall, diseases once thought to be defeated may make a comeback.
Consider measles, for example. In 2000, public health officials declared that measles was eliminated in the U.S. But in 2019, more than 1,200 measles cases were reported in this country. Researchers continue to link many new cases to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.
- Why Do Babies Need So Many Shots?
When little ones get their shots on time, they’re protected against 14 infectious diseases by age 2. Admittedly, this may sound like a lot. But the shot schedule is specifically designed to protect babies before they’re likely to be exposed to the diseases. That’s critically important, because babies and young children may become very ill if they catch one of these infections.
- Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
One in 54 kids in the U.S. has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition that affects how people communicate, behave, and interact with others. Researchers are still sorting out the causes of ASD. Some people may worry that vaccines could play a role. However, studies have not found any evidence for this. And medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that vaccines do not cause ASD.
- What About Vaccine Side Effects?
Whether you take ibuprofen for a headache or get vaccinated for HPV, there’s a potential for experiencing side effects. But like most medications, vaccine side effects are generally mild, short-lived, and usually go away on their own. The most common ones include soreness, redness, and swelling at the site where the shot was given. Severe side effects are quite rare.
In contrast, the diseases that vaccines help prevent can cause illness, hospitalization, and death. The benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh any risks.
Before the mid-1900s, thousands of babies, children, and adults died every year from diseases that can now be prevented with vaccines. For example, an epidemic of rubella in this country killed 2,000 babies and caused 11,000 miscarriages from 1964 to 1965. Today, that disease has nearly disappeared in the U.S. By getting yourself and your children vaccinated, you can help ensure that this progress continues.
- “Autism and Vaccines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html.
- “Historical Vaccine Safety Concerns.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/concerns-history.html.
- “Making the Vaccine Decision: Addressing Common Concerns.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/why-vaccinate/vaccine-decision.html.
- “Multiple Vaccinations at Once.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/multiple-vaccines-immunity.html.
- “The Benefits of Flu Vaccination 2018–2019 Infographic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/freeresources/graphics/flu-vaccine-protected-infographic.htm.
- “Vaccine Refusal and Measles Outbreaks in the U.S.” V. Phadke et. al. JAMA. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2769677.
- “What Would Happen if We Stopped Vaccinations?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm.
- “Why Vaccines Are Important for You.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/reasons-to-vaccinate.html.