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Your Most Common Vaccine Questions, Answered

Doesn't getting the disease itself give my child better immunity than she'd get from a vaccine?

"Natural infection is better than immunization in the sense that the immune response is often greater," says Dr. Offit. "That's why you sometimes need more than one dose of a vaccine, so that you can build up an immunity closer to what you'd get from natural infection, without the risks and symptoms of getting the disease, itself. The question should be, is the protection my child gets from vaccines adequate?  The answer is yes, as proven by the fact that through vaccination we've eliminated many diseases."

The benefits of vaccines are that you get the protection against the disease without the risks of getting the disease itself. That's why actually attempting to expose your child to a virus that is spreading among other children through events such as "chicken pox parties," is, however well-intended, a really bad idea. Before the chicken pox vaccine became available in 1995, there were around 11,000 hospitalizations for chicken pox every year and about fifty children a year died from the disease, and even children who didn't have serious complications from chicken pox still had to suffer the itching, fevers, and potential scars of the disease. Doctors say there's no good reason to make your child endure those symptoms when there's a safe and effective vaccine available.

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?
What happens if parents choose not to vaccinate?
Wouldn't my unvaccinated child be protected if all the other kids are immunized?
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?