Parents’ most frequently asked questions about vaccines.
- Available in:
Routine childhood vaccines are safe and effective. They have been rigorously tested and proven to prevent serious illness, saving millions of children’s lives every year. Routine vaccination offers long-lasting protection - so children can lead healthy and quality lives, without having the impact of a childhood spent battling preventable illnesses.
What are vaccines?
Vaccines are products that are usually given in childhood to protect against serious, often deadly diseases. By stimulating your body’s natural defenses, they prepare your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively.
Are vaccines safe?
Vaccines are very safe. Your child is far more likely to be hurt by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. All vaccines go through rigorous safety testing, including clinical trials, before they are approved for the public. Countries will only register and distribute vaccines that meet rigorous quality and safety standards.
Why should I vaccinate my child?
Vaccines save lives. Measles vaccines alone are estimated to have prevented over 21 million deaths between 2000 and 2017.
Vaccines will help protect your child against diseases that can cause serious harm or death, especially in people with developing immune systems like infants.
It’s important to vaccinate your child. If not, highly contagious diseases such as measles, diphtheria and polio, which were once wiped out in many countries, will come back.
Can my baby handle all of these vaccines?
Yes. Many parents worry that multiple vaccines will overload their child’s immune system. But children are exposed to hundreds of germs every day. In fact, a common cold or sore throat will put a greater burden on your child’s immune system than vaccines.
Should I vaccinate my child even for diseases that are no longer reported in my country?
Vaccines can help your child to grow healthy. You should vaccinate them even against diseases that are no longer reported in your country because those can quickly re-emerge if people are not immunized against them.
Moreover, due to our highly interconnected world, your child may be exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases carried by non-vaccinated people from other locations where they still occur.
Several diseases are no longer reported in many countries due to the success of vaccines. However, if people stop vaccinating, these diseases can return, putting all those unprotected at risk.
Follow your national immunization schedule and make sure your child is safe and protected.
What is herd immunity?
If enough people in your community are immunized against a certain disease, you can reach something called herd immunity. When this happens, diseases can’t spread easily from person to person because most people are immune. This provides a layer of protection against the disease even for those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants.
Herd immunity also prevents outbreaks by making it difficult for the disease to spread. The disease will become more and more rare, sometimes even disappearing entirely from the community.
Can a vaccine cause my baby to get sick?
Vaccines are extremely safe and serious side effects are rare. Almost all sickness or discomfort after vaccination is minor and temporary, such as a soreness at the injection site or mild fever. These can often be controlled by taking over-the-counter pain medication as advised by a doctor, or applying a cold cloth to the injection site. If parents are concerned, they should contact their doctor or health care provider.
Extensive studies and research show that there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism.
What diseases do vaccines prevent?
Vaccines protect your child against serious illnesses like polio, which can cause paralysis; measles, which can cause brain swelling and blindness; and tetanus, which can cause painful muscle contractions and difficulty eating and breathing, especially in newborns. For a list of the most common vaccines and the diseases they prevent, see this list of the most common vaccines and the diseases they prevent.
Can natural medication or healing procedures replace a vaccine?
Vaccines are not treatments. Vaccines prevent the body from getting infected and making a person sick. Unlike treatments or healing procedures, vaccines reduce the risks of infection and complications associated with the disease due to their preventive nature. Vaccines also prevent stress, hospitalizations and costs associated with treatments and medications. Most importantly, vaccines can save your child’s life. That’s why you should not replace a vaccine with any other medication or healing procedure.
Is natural immunity obtained through an infection better than vaccination?
Not vaccinating your child and letting them catch a vaccine-preventable disease puts them at risk of suffering, complications, hospitalizations, and, depending on the disease, disabilities, or even death. It is not worth trying to make your child develop natural immunity. Some diseases, like measles, can cause harm and long-term effects on the child’s immune system. The vaccine protects your child and prevents further infection to siblings, friends, classmates, and even adults who are not vaccinated. Make sure your child is vaccinated according to the national immunization schedule to protect them from dangerous infections.
Which vaccines should I give to my child?
WHO recommends that all children get a set of vaccines that will protect them against dangerous diseases. To know which vaccines are recommended in your location, consult your national immunization schedule or discuss it with your family doctor, the paediatrician or patronage nurse. In most of the countries in Europe and Central Asia, vaccines are recommended against: Hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), polio, diphteria, tetanus and pertusis (DTP), rotavirus (Rota), tuberculosis (BCG), pneumococcal disease (PCV), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and Human papillomavirus (HPV).
Make sure you follow the immunization calendar and do not miss or delay any recommended vaccine. If your child has a vaccination card, you can use it to keep track of the administered vaccines and avoid missing their due date. Missing/postponing vaccination increases the risk of infection that can cause suffering, leading to hospitalizations and even death.
What is the recommended vaccine schedule?
Immunization schedules vary by country depending on which diseases are most prevalent. You can find an overview of the recommended vaccines and approximate dates from your local health centre, doctor or your government’s Ministry of Health.
Can I delay the vaccine schedule?
It is not recommended to delay the vaccine schedule. Any time you delay a vaccine, you’re increasing your child’s vulnerability to severe diseases.
Avoid risks and make sure to follow your national immunization schedule to protect your child before they are exposed to a threatening disease.
If you are unsure when your child is due for the next vaccination, check your child's vaccination card or talk to your child's doctor. You may also find this information on the Ministry of Health's website.
I didn't vaccinate my child at the recommended time. Is it too late to catch up?
For most vaccines, it is never too late to catch up. Talk to your doctor about how to get any missed vaccination doses for yourself or your child. Remember to stay attentive to the immunization schedule. When you delay or miss vaccines, your child remains – for a longer period - at risk of infections that can cause severe harm and even death. To avoid forgetting vaccination appointments, you can set up alarms on your phone or think about other ways to keep you alert on the immunization schedule.
How can I know if a vaccine is contraindicated for my child?
There are very few contraindications to vaccines. Most of them are usually temporary, and the vaccine can be administered as soon as the condition, such as high-grade fever, has disappeared. If you are concerned that a vaccine may be contraindicated to your child, discuss it with your child’s doctor. Remember that vaccines prevent dangerous diseases. By vaccinating your child, you help them to grow healthy.