Vaccinations can help protect your child from serious diseases caused by germs. Vaccinations are also called vaccines, immunizations, needles, or shots.
Vaccinations work by boosting the immune system's ability to fight certain infections. The vaccination teaches your child's immune system to recognize and fight specific germs so that when they are exposed to them, he or she has a much lower risk of getting sick.
Your child's immune system responds to the antigens (bits of germs that have been weakened or killed) in the vaccine by making antibodies to fight the germs (each antibody is "trained" to fight a specific germ) and memory cells to remember the germs in case they encounter them in the future. Vaccinations are given by injections (needles), usually into the child's upper arm or leg.
Some vaccines for children need a series of doses (usually 2 to 4 doses) to reach their full effectiveness. This is called a "primary series." For some vaccines, a "booster" dose is needed months or years after the primary dose(s) to refresh the immune system's memory and maintain protection. If your child misses a vaccine dose, they'll need "catch-up" doses (also called "supplemental" doses) to ensure that they are protected. Your child may also need a catch-up dose if a new vaccine becomes available after your child has already passed the age when it is normally given.
To get the maximum protection that vaccines have to offer, your child needs to have all doses of the recommended childhood vaccinations on time. Talk to your child's health care professional about which vaccinations your child needs and when they should receive them to get full vaccine coverage.
You can also learn more about specific vaccinations by clicking the links below:
- pneumococcal vaccine
- meningococcal vaccine
- measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine
- influenza vaccine
- hepatitis B vaccine
- Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
- diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio vaccine
- chickenpox vaccine