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What are vaccines?

Vaccines are medicines that prevent you from getting sick. There are many different kinds of vaccines, and each one prevents a different infection. If you get vaccinated for an infection, you’re protected from getting that infection. Getting vaccinated can also help protect the people around you from getting that infection. Vaccines help keep you, your loved ones, and everyone in your community healthy.

Who needs vaccines?

Everyone needs vaccines, from babies to older adults. Which vaccines you should get depends on your age, which vaccines you’ve already gotten, your lifestyle, and other factors. Your nurse or doctor can talk with you about which vaccines make the most sense for you.

Are vaccines safe?

Yes! Vaccines are very safe. This has been proven by many research studies over many years. Vaccines don’t give you the sickness they protect against, and vaccines don’t cause autism. Some people have side effects, but they’re generally mild and go away on their own (like redness or swelling where the shot was given). Serious problems, like an allergic reaction, are very rare. If you notice any problems right after getting a vaccine that worry you, ask your doctor or nurse about it.

Do vaccines cause autism?

No. Vaccines don’t cause autism. A study in 1998 claimed that there was a connection between vaccines and autism, but it was later proven untrue. Many more studies since then have shown that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

Do I still need to be vaccinated if everyone around me has been vaccinated?

There’s no way to know if everyone around you has been vaccinated. The only way to know you’ll be protected from an illness is if you’ve gotten the vaccine. It’s true that if most people have gotten a vaccine, the people around them are less likely to get the illness that vaccine prevents (this is called “herd immunity”). But if too many people don’t get vaccinated because they think everyone else has, then you could get sick very easily.

Can vaccines cause the infections they’re protecting against?

Vaccines don’t cause infections. For example, it’s not possible to get the flu from the flu shot. That’s because the flu vaccine, like other vaccines, doesn’t have the live active flu virus in it.

What vaccines should adults get?

Your nurse or doctor can talk with you about the best vaccines for you. Some common vaccines for adults are:

  • Influenza vaccine (flu shot) – a yearly vaccine that protects against the flu.
  • Shingles vaccine – for healthy adults age 50 and older. You need 2 doses, with 2 to 6 months between each shot.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine – for all adults over the age of 65. Some adults younger than 65 who have certain health problems may also need this vaccine.

Talk with your nurse or doctor to make sure that you’re up to date on the vaccines most people get when they’re younger, as well as boosters (extra doses of a vaccine given after the original dose). These vaccines include:

  • Tdap vaccine (for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis AKA whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis A and B 
  • HPV vaccine
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine

What vaccines do pregnant people need?

Some vaccines are important to get before you get pregnant, while you need to get other vaccines during your pregnancy. The MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) is important to get at least 1 month before you get pregnant. You may also need the hepatitis B vaccine.

Vaccines like the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine (for whooping cough) can help protect both you and your fetus if you get them while you’re pregnant.

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk with your nurse or doctor about which vaccines you need to get.

What vaccines do children need?

Most vaccines that exist are recommended for children so they’re protected during childhood before their immune system (which fights off sickness) is strong. Most vaccines they get will protect them their whole lives from some very dangerous illnesses. Children should get the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis B vaccine

  • RV: Rotavirus vaccine

  • DTaP: Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine

  • Hib: Protects against meningitis

  • PCV13: Pneumococcal vaccine

  • IPV: Polio vaccine

  • MMR: Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine

  • Varicella: Chickenpox vaccine

  • Hepatitis A vaccine

  • HPV vaccine

  • Meningococcal vaccine

  • Flu shot every year

Your doctor or nurse will let you know when it’s time for your child to get each vaccination. Making sure your child gets these vaccines on time will help them stay healthy.

Do I need to get the flu shot?

The flu shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months old. Some people, like young kids, older adults, and people with diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, are more likely to have serious problems from the flu (like pneumonia or other serious infections), so it’s even more important that they get a flu shot every year. It’s also important to get a flu shot if someone you spend  time with has a serious medical problem or a new baby at home.

People who are pregnant or people who are planning to be pregnant during flu season (October-February) also need the flu shot. People who are pregnant are more likely to have serious problems from the flu than non-pregnant people, and the flu can be really harmful to a fetus.

Is the flu shot safe?

The flu vaccine is very safe. Some people have mild side effects from the flu vaccine, including soreness where they got the shot, redness, or a mild fever. These reactions usually only last for 1-2 days and are not the same thing as the flu.

There are a few very rare risks of the flu shot. One is called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a condition in which your immune system attacks your body’s nerves. There is also a very small risk of an allergic reaction to any vaccine. If you have allergies, ask your nurse or doctor if there is anything in the vaccine that you may be allergic to.

Where can I get the flu shot?

You can get the flu shot at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, a pharmacy, or your local health department. You may also be able to get a flu shot at your local Planned Parenthood health center.

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