FAQs

Your vaccine questions answered.

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

Like most parents, you probably have questions about vaccines. 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, physicians and scientists in the country.

Are these diseases really still a threat?

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 would experience outbreaks of many preventable diseases that we have worked so hard to reduce or eliminate over the years.

Are vaccines safe?

Yes. The U.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.

What about vaccines and autism?

The question of a possible link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism has been extensively researched by scientists, doctors and experts in the U.S. and throughout the world. The evidence is clear there is no link between vaccines and autism. Learn more here:

Do vaccines cause long-term side effects?

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.

What are the short-term side effects?

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 doctor right away.

Is it safe to get vaccines during pregnancy?

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.

Why do kids need so many shots so early?

The immune systems of infants and young children are the most vulnerable and require protection from certain diseases as soon as possible. The diseases we vaccinate against are still circulating in the U.S. and around the world.

These diseases pose an immediate threat at any time and could be just a plane ride away. We continue to protect babies and children when they are most at-risk because outbreaks of diseases like whooping cough, mumps and measles still happen—even in Florida.

Will so many vaccines at once overload my child’s immune system?

No. Vaccines contain ingredients called antigens, which tell the body’s immune system to create antibodies that fight off diseases. These antigens are weakened or inactive so they can’t cause serious illness. Every day, your child’s immune system fights off millions of antigens, and all of the vaccines combined have only have a tiny fraction of what children encounter in their everyday lives.

Can I delay or spread out the vaccine schedule?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)-recommended schedule is designed to work with children’s immune system response to give them the best possible protection against preventable disease when they are most vulnerable. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the claim that delaying any vaccine is safer than following the ACIP-recommended schedule.

Not vaccinating according to the recommended schedule puts your child at-risk for life-threatening diseases and allows for the spread of disease to others in your community, some who can’t be vaccinated—such as newborns and people with certain illnesses or suppressed immune systems, like cancer patients and the elderly. You want what’s best for your child but the decision to refuse or delay vaccines is a bigger risk to you, your children, and the community as a whole.

Additionally, if there are cases of a vaccine-preventable disease in your area and your child has not been vaccinated, they may be excluded from attending school or childcare. Depending on the outbreak, they could be excluded for several weeks to months.

Which shots do my children need for school or daycare?

Florida requires certain vaccines to be administered before children may enroll and attend childcare and school. Consult the following resources to determine which vaccines your child needs for each kind of school.

How can I get a current immunization record for myself or my child?

Contact your health care provider. Their office can provide you with your child’s Florida Certification of Immunization (DH Form 680), the form needed for school. 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 our CHD Locator to find a CHD in your area.

How can I get help paying for vaccines?

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native. Learn more about the VFC program in Florida.

Where can I find a doctor who participates in the VFC program near me?

You can visit any county health department in your area or you can search by zip code or telephone number for a list of participating immunization providers in Florida SHOTS and the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program here.