Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety & Prevention

Vaccine Safety: Get the Facts

​Some people have concerns about vaccine safety. The fact is vaccines save millions of lives and protect EVERYONE against the spread of disease. If you decide not to vaccinate your child, you're putting them at risk of catching a disease that is dangerous or even deadly. You're also putting others who have contact with your child at risk. Getting vaccinated is much better than getting the disease.

In fact, some of the worst diseases that affect children have been greatly reduced or eliminated completely thanks to vaccines. Today, vaccines protect children and teens from 16 of these diseases.

Vaccines protect children from deadly diseases like:
Polio, measles, rubella, mumps, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus (lock jaw), hepatitis A and B, influenza, diarrheal infections, reproductive cancers and more.

Your pediatrician knows that you care about your child's health and safety. And your pediatrician cares about your child, too. That's why it's important to get all the scientific facts from a medical professional you can trust. It's best not to make decisions based on stories you may have seen or heard on TV, the internet, or from other parents.

Here's what your pediatrician wants you to know about vaccinating your child:

1. Vaccines work.

They have kept children healthy and have saved millions of lives for decades. Most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease. And if a vaccinated child does get the disease, the symptoms are usually less serious than in a child who did not get the vaccine and got sick from the disease. Your child may have mild side effects after a shot, like swelling where the shot was given. These side effects don't last long though. And it is rare for side effects to be serious.

2. Vaccines are safe.

Before a new vaccine is given to people in the United States, it must be reviewed by health experts. This involves several steps.

A vaccine must go through detailed clinical trials before it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children. The trials look at the vaccine's safety, side effects, and effectiveness. A group of experts called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee then advises the FDA whether the vaccine should be approved for licensure. The FDA only licenses a vaccine if it is safe and effective, and its benefits are greater than any risks.

Next, if the vaccine is licensed, another group of experts is convened by the CDC, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This committee makes recommendations on use of vaccines approved by the FDA. The ACIP also advises whether the new vaccine should be added to the Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.

Even after a vaccine is approved and recommended for use, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine continues to be monitored by the CDC and FDA. This "post-marketing" surveillance allows them to identify any rare side effects that were not able to be detected during the clinical trials.

Cause or coincidence?

The United States takes vaccine safety very seriously. In fact, anyone can report any health problem after they received a vaccine to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), even if the health problem was not caused by the vaccine.

Health care providers, patients or family members can submit reports. Because VAERS is an open system, the reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and can have information that contains errors.

The benefit of this open system is that new, unusual or rare vaccine adverse events can be detected right away.

Remember: VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required before the report is accepted.

3. Vaccines boost natural immunity

It is reasonable to think that natural immunity is all your child needs. Babies are born with immune systems that can fight many germs. And when infants are breastfed, they get added protection from minor illness like colds. This protection does not last long, though.

Sometimes, one or two doses of a vaccine can teach your child's immune system how to respond to an infection for a lifetime. What if our immune system forgets how to get rid of the infection over time? That is when our immune system needs to be reminded. This is referred to as giving "booster shots." Booster shots are just as important as your child's first vaccinations. They refresh your child's immune system memory by building on the instructions learned from the previous vaccines. If booster shots are missed, the child's immune system has less memory to respond when they are infected with the vaccine-preventable illness.

4. Vaccines are necessary.

Your pediatrician knows that your child should receive all recommended childhood vaccines. In many parts of the world, vaccines are not as commonly available.

Diseases that are rarely seen in the U.S. can still be brought into the country by people visiting areas with current disease outbreaks. This is another reason why it's important that your child is fully vaccinated. Being vaccinated will protect your child but also help to protect others in the community. This protection of the community is commonly referred to as herd immunity.

When enough people are vaccinated, everyone receives some protection from the spread of diseases. This includes those who are unable to be immunized (such as children who are too young or others who are immunocompromised). But relying on herd immunity to keep your child safe is risky. And, if our vaccination rate drops too low, vaccine-preventable infections will return. We have seen that many times in the past few years with outbreaks of whooping cough, measles and mumps.


If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, please talk with your pediatrician.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us