Vaccines can prevent disease. Childhood vaccination is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)
Diphtheria (D) can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, or death.
Tetanus (T) causes painful stiffening of the muscles. Tetanus can lead to serious health problems, including being unable to open the mouth, having trouble swallowing and breathing, or death.
Pertussis (aP), also known as "whooping cough," can cause uncontrollable, violent coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat, or drink. Pertussis can be extremely serious especially in babies and young children, causing pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, or death. In teens and adults, it can cause weight loss, loss of bladder control, passing out, and rib fractures from severe coughing.
Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) disease
Haemophilus influenzae type b can cause many different kinds of infections. These infections usually affect children under 5 years of age but can also affect adults with certain medical conditions. Hib bacteria can cause mild illness, such as ear infections or bronchitis, or they can cause severe illness, such as infections of the blood. Severe Hib infection, also called "invasive Hib disease," requires treatment in a hospital and can sometimes result in death.
Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause mild illness lasting a few weeks, or it can lead to a serious, lifelong illness. Acute hepatitis B infection is a short-term illness that can lead to fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements), and pain in the muscles, joints, and stomach. Chronic hepatitis B infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person's body. Most people who go on to develop chronic hepatitis B do not have symptoms, but it is still very serious and can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and death.
Polio (or poliomyelitis) is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by poliovirus, which can infect a person's spinal cord, leading to paralysis. Most people infected with poliovirus have no symptoms, and many recover without complications. Some people will experience sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, or stomach pain. A smaller group of people will develop more serious symptoms: paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs), meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain), or paralysis (can't move parts of the body) or weakness in the arms, legs, or both. Paralysis can lead to permanent disability and death.
Pneumococcal disease refers to any illness caused by pneumococcal bacteria. These bacteria can cause many types of illnesses, including pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. Besides pneumonia, pneumococcal bacteria can also cause ear infections, sinus infections, meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord), and bacteremia (infection of the blood). Most pneumococcal infections are mild. However, some can result in long-term problems, such as brain damage or hearing loss. Meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease can be fatal.
DTaP, Hib, hepatitis B, polio, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines
Infants and children usually need:
5 doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP)
3 or 4 doses of Hib vaccine
3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine
4 doses of polio vaccine
4 doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)
Some children might need fewer or more than the usual number of doses of some vaccines to be fully protected because of their age at vaccination or other circumstances.
Older children, adolescents, and adults with certain health conditions or other risk factors might also be recommended to receive 1 or more doses of some of these vaccines.
These vaccines may be given as stand-alone vaccines, or as part of a combination vaccine (a type of vaccine that combines more than one vaccine together into one shot).
Talk with your health care provider
Tell your vaccination provider if the child getting the vaccine:
For all of these vaccines:
- Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of the vaccine, or has any severe, life-threatening allergies
Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of any vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis
Has had a coma, decreased level of consciousness, or prolonged seizures within 7 days after a previous dose of any pertussis vaccine (DTP or DTaP)
Has seizures or another nervous system problem
Has ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called "GBS")
Has had severe pain or swelling after a previous dose of any vaccine that protects against tetanus or diphtheria
- Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of PCV13, to an earlier pneumococcal conjugate vaccine known as PCV7, or to any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid (for example, DTaP)
In some cases, your child's health care provider may decide to postpone vaccination until a future visit.
Children with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. Children who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before being vaccinated.
Your child's health care provider can give you more information.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
For all of these vaccines:
- Soreness, redness, swelling, warmth, pain, or tenderness where the shot is given can happen after vaccination.
For DTaP vaccine, Hib vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, and PCV13:
- Fever can happen after vaccination.
For DTaP vaccine:
Fussiness, feeling tired, loss of appetite, and vomiting sometimes happen after DTaP vaccination.
More serious reactions, such as seizures, non-stop crying for 3 hours or more, or high fever (over 105°F) after DTaP vaccination happen much less often. Rarely, vaccination is followed by swelling of the entire arm or leg, especially in older children when they receive their fourth or fifth dose.
Loss of appetite, fussiness (irritability), feeling tired, headache, and chills can happen after PCV13 vaccination.
Young children may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever after PCV13 if it is administered at the same time as inactivated influenza vaccine. Ask your health care provider for more information.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.
What if there is a serious problem?
An allergic reaction could occur after the vaccinated person leaves the clinic. If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), call 9-1-1 and get the person to the nearest hospital.
For other signs that concern you, call your health care provider.
Adverse reactions should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your health care provider will usually file this report, or you can do it yourself. Visit the VAERS website at www.vaers.hhs.gov or call 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions, and VAERS staff members do not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. Claims regarding alleged injury or death due to vaccination have a time limit for filing, which may be as short as two years. Visit the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation or call 1-800-338-2382 to learn about the program and about filing a claim.
How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Visit the website of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vaccine package inserts and additional information at www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/vaccines.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):