Vaccines help protect infants, children, and teens from serious diseases. Getting childhood vaccines means your child can develop immunity (protection) against diseases before they come into contact with them.
Did you know that getting your child vaccinated also protects others? Because of community immunity or “herd immunity”, vaccines help keep your child’s younger siblings, older family members, and friends from getting sick, too.
How does “herd” immunity work?
Germs (bacteria and viruses) can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick. If enough people get sick, it can lead to an outbreak. But when enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person — and the entire community is less likely to get the disease.
That means even people who can’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. And if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.
Who does “herd” immunity protect?
“Herd immunity” protects everyone. But it’s especially important since some people can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases — including those with serious allergies and those with weakened or failing immune systems (like people who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, type 1 diabetes, or other health conditions.) Herd immunity also protects infants who have immature immune systems and are too young to be vaccinated. Community immunity is also important for the very small group of people who don’t have a strong immune response from vaccines.
Why do vaccinations start so early?
Young children especially infants are at increased risk for infectious diseases because their immune systems have not yet built up the necessary defenses to fight serious infections and diseases. As a result, diseases like whooping cough or pneumococcal disease can be very serious — and even deadly — for infants and young children. Vaccinations start early in life to protect children before they are exposed to these diseases.
Can vaccines overload my child’s immune system?
No, vaccines do not overload the immune system. Your child’s immune system successfully fights off thousands of germs every day. Even if your child gets several vaccines in a day, the vaccines make up only a tiny fraction of the germs their body fights off.
Why does my child need more than 1 dose of a vaccine?
Children — and adults, too — need more than 1 dose of some vaccines. That’s because it can take more than 1 dose to build enough immunity against a disease. A vaccine’s protection can also fade over time.
That’s why every dose of a vaccine is important.
Can I delay my child’s vaccines or spread them out over a longer period of time?
Experts don’t recommend spreading out or delaying your child’s vaccines. There’s no benefit to spreading out vaccinations — and following the recommended schedule protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life. If your child misses vaccines or gets them late, they’ll be at risk for serious diseases that are preventable.