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Your Most Common Vaccine Questions, Answered

What happens if parents choose not to vaccinate?

When immunization rates drop, these deadly diseases can reemerge. That's because vaccines aren't 100-percent effective; about 95 percent of the protection comes from the vaccine and the remaining protection comes from living in a community where there are low rates of the disease. So for vaccines to keep a disease in check, most people in a community need to be immunized, so they're not contracting and spreading the disease. This way, the few people that are not able to be vaccinated -- say, a child sick with leukemia, or a newborn who hasn't had her shots -- will hopefully be protected by what's called "herd" or "community" immunity.

There are parents who choose not to vaccinate their children based on either religious, philosophical or health objections, and the vaccines that are required to enter daycare or school vary from state to state. Many of these parents argue that their unvaccinated kids can benefit from herd immunity, too. Unfortunately, this isn't a reliable way to protect your child. There have been deadly outbreaks of measles and pertussis in the United States in areas where vaccine rates have fallen. In Eastern Europe and Russia, where immunization has dropped, there have been tens of thousands of cases of diphtheria. For vaccines to work, a community needs to have high rates of immunization. Immunization not only protects your child, but your nieces, nephews, and neighbors, too.

What are vaccines exactly?
Are vaccines safe?
Can my baby's immune system handle so many shots?
Why do kids today get so many more vaccines than they did years ago?
Is it okay to skip some vaccines?
Do these diseases even still exist?
Wouldn't my unvaccinated child be protected if all the other kids are immunized?
Doesn't getting the disease itself give my child better immunity than she'd get from a vaccine?
Can't I wait to vaccinate my child until she is ready to start school?
What is thimerosal?
Doesn't the flu vaccine still contain thimerosol?
How worried should I be about side effects?
If my child is sick, should I wait he's better to have him vaccinated?
If I'm breastfeeding, isn't my baby immune to all the diseases I'm immune to?