Vaccines and Immunizations

A vaccine is a type of medicine used to prevent serious diseases. It is usually given to you as a shot—this is called getting a vaccination. When you get vaccinated, your body gets a very weak form of the disease. Your body fights and kills the disease and protects you from getting sick from it in the future—known as immunization.

Although children get the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to be sure they are protected from certain diseases. Many of these diseases used to make people very sick, disabled, or even die. Now that we have vaccines, many of these diseases are very rare. The only way to get rid of them completely is for everyone to get the proper vaccinations.


Vaccination FAQs for parents

What is a vaccine or immunization?

A vaccine is a type of medicine that is usually given to you as a shot with a needle. The medicine in the shot protects your body from one or more diseases. When you get this medicine, your body learns how to fight the disease so that you will not get sick from it, referred to as immunization.

Why does my child need vaccinations?

Vaccines benefit the people who get them because they prevent them from getting diseases or infections that could make them sick or even kill them. They also benefit the vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them because it reduces the spreading of diseases and infection if most people are vaccinated and are not contracting them in the first place.

Are vaccines safe?

Yes. Vaccines are very safe. If any side effects occur from vaccinations, they are very minor, such as soreness where you received the shot, fussiness, or a low-grade fever. Serious side effects, like allergic reactions, are very rare, and doctors are trained to treat them.

My child doesn’t like shots. Is there another way to get vaccinated?

Some vaccines can be taken by mouth or sprayed into your nose. Talk to your doctor to see whether this is an option. Most of the time, you will need to have the shot with a needle. It may sting for a moment and be a little sore, but it is much better than taking the risk of getting sick. Putting a cool, wet wash cloth where you got your shot can help make it feel better.

Why do we get the same shot more than once?

Some vaccines take more than one dose to give you full protection. Other vaccines stop working after a while, so you need to get them again. Make sure that you get every dose of all of your vaccines. This is the only way to make sure that you are protected from the disease.

Why do vaccinations start so early?

Babies and young children need to be vaccinated because they are more at risk for diseases. These diseases can also be much more serious for infants and young children.

How do I know which vaccines my child needs?

Talk to your child’s doctor about what vaccines they need. You can also look at these charts that tell you what vaccines your child needs based on how old they are.


Important Ages for Vaccines

12-18 Months OldMother kissing her sleeping baby

Before your baby turns one-and-a-half years old (18 months), they need to have a series of vaccinations. To be fully protected from diseases, your baby needs the following vaccines:

  • 4 doses – DTaP/DT (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis)
  • 3 doses – IPV (Polio)
  • 3 doses – Hep B (Hepatitis B)
  • 3 doses – Hib (Haemophilus Influenzae)
  • 4 doses – PCV (Pneumococcal Conjugate)
  • 1 dose – MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
  • 1 dose – VZV (Chickenpox/varicella)

Your child will start getting these shots within the first two months after they are born. Your child needs all of the doses of these vaccines before they turn two years old.

11-13 Years Old

Before your child turns 13 years old, they need to have the following vaccines:

Your child can get these shots when they are 11 or 12 years old.


You never outgrow the need for vaccinations. The vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as your age, lifestyle, high-risk conditions, type and locations of travel, and previous immunizations. Ask your provider which vaccinations you should get.

Click here for a vaccination timeline for adults.