Skip to Content

Immunizations for Infants and Children

Infants and children are very vulnerable to disease. They need vaccinations to protect them from infection and diseases that have led to many childhood deaths.  

Though many diseases are uncommon now because of vaccines, they can all occur today if your child is not up-to-date on their vaccines.

Vaccines are effective and safe and are continually monitored for safety.

Vaccines, like any medication, may cause some side effects. Most of these side effects are minor, like soreness at the shot site, fussiness or a low-grade fever.

These side effects typically only last a couple of days and are treatable. Serious reactions are very rare.

CDC worksheets

Worksheets from the CDC for infants through children age 6 years allow you to track milestones in your child's development.

Learn more


Infant immunizations FAQ

Are vaccines safe?

Yes. The U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year. The most common side effects are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site. 

What are the side effects of the vaccines? How do I treat them?

Vaccines, like any medication, may cause some side effects. Most of these side effects are very minor, like soreness where the shot was given, fussiness or a low-grade fever. 

These side effects typically only last a couple of days and are treatable. For example, you can apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth on the sore area to ease discomfort. Serious reactions are very rare.

What are the risks and benefits of vaccines?

Vaccines can prevent infectious diseases that once killed or harmed many infants, children and adults. Without vaccines, your child is at risk for getting seriously ill and suffering pain, disability and even death from diseases like measles and whooping cough.

The main risks associated with getting vaccines are side effects, which are almost always mild (redness and swelling at the injection site) and go away within a few days. 

Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.

Is there a link between vaccines and autism?

No. Some people have suggested that thimerosal (a compound that contains mercury) in vaccines given to infants and young children might be a cause of autism, and others have suggested that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine may be linked to autism. 

However, numerous scientists and researchers have studied and continue to study the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, and reach the same conclusion: There is no link between them and autism.

Can vaccines overload my baby's immune system?

Vaccines do not overload the immune system. Every day, a healthy baby's immune system successfully fights off millions of germs. Antigens are parts of germs that cause the body's immune system to go to work.

The antigens in vaccines come from the germs themselves, but the germs are weakened or killed so they cannot cause serious illness. 

Even if they receive several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens that babies encounter every day in their environment. Vaccines provide your child with the antibodies they need to fight off the serious illnesses for which they have been vaccinated.

What do you think of delaying some vaccines or following an alternative schedule?

Children do not receive any known benefits from following schedules that delay vaccines. Infants and young children who follow immunization schedules that spread out shots or leave out shots are at risk of developing diseases during the time that shots are delayed. 

Some vaccine-preventable diseases remain common in the U.S., and children may be exposed to these diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines, placing them at risk for a serious case of the disease that might cause hospitalization or death.

Haven't we gotten rid of most of these diseases in this country?

Some vaccine-preventable diseases, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, remain common in the U.S. 

On the other hand, other diseases prevented by vaccines are no longer common in this country because of vaccines. However, if we stopped vaccinating, even the few cases we have in the U.S. could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases. 

Even though many serious vaccine-preventable diseases are uncommon in the U.S., some are common in other parts of the world. Even if your family does not travel internationally, you could come into contact with international travelers anywhere in your community. 

Kids that are not fully vaccinated and are exposed to a disease can become seriously sick and spread it through a community.

Isn't natural immunity better than the kind from vaccines?

Babies may get some temporary immunity (protection) from mom during the last few weeks of pregnancy—but only for the diseases to which mom is immune. 

Breastfeeding may also protect your baby temporarily from minor infections, like colds. These antibodies do not last long, leaving the infant vulnerable to disease. Natural immunity occurs when your child is exposed to a disease and becomes infected. 

It is true that natural immunity usually results in better immunity than vaccination, but the risks are much greater. A natural chickenpox infection may result in pneumonia, whereas the vaccine might only cause a sore arm for a couple of days.