Vaccines are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully checks all vaccines for safety. Federal law requires health professionals to report any reaction following an vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). For more information about how vaccine safety is checked, see www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html.
The risk of a serious problem from a disease is far greater than the risk from the vaccine. For example, 1 child in a group of 20 unvaccinated children may die from diphtheria disease. But only 1 child in a group of 14,000 vaccinated children may have side effects after getting the DTaP vaccine. And that child would recover.1
Vaccines are safe even if you or your child:
- Has or is recovering from a minor illness, such as a cold or an ear infection.
- Has a slight fever.
- Has had recent exposure to someone with a disease that is easily spread from person to person.
- Had a mild reaction from a previous injection, such as redness at the site of the shot or a slight fever.
- Is currently taking antibiotics.
- Has had mild allergies or seizures or has a family history of such problems.
- Has had allergic reactions to penicillin or other antibiotics (except for a history of severe reactions to neomycin or streptomycin).
Vaccines are also safe for premature infants.
Certain vaccines are safe during pregnancy. But some vaccines are not given during pregnancy. Ask your doctor which vaccines you need before you get pregnant and during pregnancy.
Getting more than one vaccination at a time
Getting more than one vaccine at a time is not dangerous.
Some parents worry about their children getting several vaccines at the same time. They worry that a child's immune system can't handle all those vaccines at the same time.
Getting more than one shot may seem like a lot for a child's body to handle. But babies have billions of immune system cells that are hard at work all the time, fighting the many thousands of germs they're exposed to every day.
After careful study, more and more vaccines are being combined into a single shot, such as the measles-mumps-rubella shot. This means you or your child needs fewer shots. Even though the vaccines are combined, each gives the same protection as it would if it were given alone.
The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that a child get all of the vaccines needed at his or her age in one doctor visit.
Combination vaccines include:
- Hepatitis B/Haemophilus influenzae type b.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis/Polio).
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis/Polio/Hepatitis B.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis/Polio/Haemophilus influenzae type b.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to study vaccines. The risk of problems from vaccines is already extremely low. But these agencies watch for any reports of rare or unexpected reactions.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about the safety of vaccines.
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (2007, accessed November 2011). Some common misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine