Your vaccine questions answered.

Are vaccines safe? Are they necessary? Which vaccines does my child need and when should they get them?

With so much information available to us, sorting fact from myth and knowing which sources to trust can be confusing. Don’t let that stop you from getting the facts!

We’ve gathered your most frequently asked questions and provided evidence-based answers from the most trusted and respected public health organizations, health care providers and scientists in the country.

In short, yes. But vaccines do such a great job of preventing diseases that it’s easy to forget what it was like before them. Before the DTaP vaccine for example, around 9,000 children died every year from whooping cough, but today that number is less than 20. However, this disease and others are making a comeback. In fact, we see between 10,000 and 50,000 reported cases of whooping cough each year across every state in the U.S., and in 2014, a measles outbreak affected people in 27 states. Without vaccines, we will experience outbreaks of many preventable diseases that we have worked so hard to reduce or eliminate over the years.

Yes. The U.S.’s vaccine safety system monitors and ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. Currently, the U.S. has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Vaccines are rigorously tested for safety and are only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once they have been determined safe and effective and that the benefits far outweigh the risks. From there, they are continuously monitored for safety.

Vaccines are not linked to increases in health problems such as autism, asthma or autoimmune diseases, and there is no evidence that vaccines threaten a long, healthy life. Like any medication, vaccines can cause short-term side effects, but they are usually mild, such as pain and redness at the injection site. The diseases that you are protecting against can be much worse—even deadly—than any of the possible minor side effects of vaccinations.

In most cases, vaccine side effects are minor and go away within a few days. Side effects vary according to vaccine type, but may include:
  • Pain, redness or swelling at injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching at injection site
  • Nausea, dizziness or fainting (more common in adolescents)
  • Fever
  • Mild rash
If you or your child experience an allergic reaction or other serious side effect after a vaccine, contact your health care provider right away.

Not only are certain vaccines safe to receive during pregnancy, they are highly recommended, providing protection for both you and your baby against diseases that can cause serious complications. Vaccines, such as flu and Tdap, have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with a very good safety record. The flu vaccine can be given in any trimester, and TDaP is recommended in the third trimester of every pregnancy to provide early short-term protection for your baby as well as yourself. There are certain live vaccines that pregnant women should not receive, such as MMR, chickenpox and the live nasal spray flu vaccine. Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines you need before, during and after pregnancy.

Contact your health care provider. You can also contact the local county health department (CHD), and they may be able to provide you with an immunization history if your records are entered in the Florida SHOTS immunization registry. Use the Florida Department of Health County Health Department Locator to find a CHD in your area.

There are thousands of immunization providers in Florida. Some of them offer low- or no-cost vaccines to people without insurance or who can’t afford out-of-pocket expenses. For older adults, most vaccines are covered by Medicare Part D. Find the County Health Department near you.