Immunization Information for Parents and Caregivers

toddler getting vaccine

As parents, you make important decisions that affect your children every day, including vaccinations. Vaccinating your child, not only shields them against 14 preventable diseases, but it also protects your family and your community. This page provides you with information for you to vaccinate with confidence.

WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VACCINES

Why vaccinate?
  • The recommended immunization schedule protects children from 14 vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease (American Academy of Pediatrics). If a vaccinated child does get the disease, the symptoms are usually less serious than in a child who hasn’t been vaccinated.
  • Find answers to parents' top questions in this handout from the California Department of Public Health.
  • Vaccines can save your child’s life and the lives of others in your community through collective immunity. Learn more about your community's vaccine coverage rates.
Are vaccines safe?
  • Like any medicine, vaccines can sometimes cause side effects. However, serious reactions are extremely rare. The risk of being harmed by a vaccine is far lower than the risk of serious illness from getting the that disease vaccines prevent.
  • Vaccine information sheets describe the benefits and risks of each vaccine. You may wish to review this information before your child’s appointment. Your health care provider will also give you a sheet for each vaccine.
  • The CDC monitors vaccine safety with research, determinations about causes of reactions and identifying adverse events.
  • The Vermont Health Department also ensures effectiveness and safety by working with health care providers on vaccine handling and storage, record keeping, informing families about risks and benefits and reporting reactions, if they happen.
How do vaccines work?

Vaccines contain part of a germ (bacteria or virus) called an antigen, along with small amounts of other ingredients that make the vaccine or maintain its safety and effectiveness. Antigens tell the body to produce an immune response to protect itself against infection. The antigen used in vaccines has been killed or weakened before it's used to make the vaccine, so it can't give you the disease it is protecting you from.

Which vaccines are recommended for my child?
What are the vaccination coverage rates for children in Vermont?

The Vermont Immunization Program monitors vaccination rates. Check out our Vaccination Coverage page for school, state and national coverage rates.

EXPECTANT PARENTS

What should expectant parents know about vaccines?

The CDC recommends pregnant women receive influenza and Tdap vaccine (containing whooping cough vaccine) during each pregnancy. Both you and your baby are protected from these vaccines because you will pass on some temporary protection until your baby is old enough for vaccinations.

  • Flu vaccination information and questions can be found on The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ handout.
  • The whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy protects your baby during the earliest months of life, when they are most likely to catch whooping cough. Ensuring other family members and caregivers are vaccinated for whooping cough vaccine further protects your baby. Information about the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy and caregiver vaccinations (aka “cocooning”) is on the CDC website.
  • A recent study showed that Tdap (whooping cough) vaccine, given during the third trimester of pregnancy, reduced the incidence of whooping cough in infants by 43% (American Journal of Preventative Medicine).

Some women may need additional vaccines. Your doctor or midwife can provide more information.

Find more information about vaccines during pregnancy:

Why is the Hepatitis B vaccine recommended for all newborns shortly after birth?

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease caused by a virus. Some people clear the virus after infection. For other people, it becomes a chronic condition causing serious health problems. Infected babies usually become chronic. About 25% of babies who are infected with hepatitis B will die of liver failure or liver cancer as adults.

How could my baby get infected with hepatitis B?
  • A mother infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus as their infant passes through the birth canal.
  • After birth, infants can also be exposed through close contact with an infected person (e.g., a person in the household or a caregiver), who may not know they are infected.
  • The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body at least 7 days and cause infection if it enters an uninfected person’s body.
If my prenatal labs show that I am not infected with hepatitis B, why does my baby still need to get vaccinated?

First, it is possible for the test to be incorrect. Also, you could acquire hepatitis B after you have the test without realizing it and pass it to your baby at birth.

Can I wait until my child is a little older to get vaccinated?

Delaying the vaccination leaves your child vulnerable to infection and the potential for developing serious disease. A dose of hepatitis B shortly after birth is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Learn more about hepatitis B from the Immunization Action Coalition

BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN

Why is it important to follow the recommended immunization schedule?
  • An immunization schedule lists the timing of recommended vaccinations. The CDC’s recommendations are based on extensive research. It was created to protect children from diseases at the earliest time that vaccines are safe and effective. 
  • Delaying vaccines leaves your child vulnerable to disease at the time when they are the most at risk. This handout from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has more information about alternative schedules.
Do multiple vaccines overwhelm a baby’s immune system or impact long-term health?

As soon as babies are born, their immune systems are constantly exposed to germs in their environment. The challenge vaccines have to immune system is tiny compared to what the immune systems handles routinely. There is no evidence to support a link between vaccines and autism or other long-term health impacts. This handout from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has more information about giving multiple vaccines.

Why is it better to vaccinate than get immunity from having the disease?

Natural immunity, acquired through an infection, may offer stronger protection than a vaccine in some cases. However, the chance of harm from being sick with a vaccine preventable disease is much higher than the chance of harm from a vaccine.

Should my child receive a yearly influenza vaccine?
  • Flu is a potentially serious, contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can lead to hospitalization and even death.
  • CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a yearly seasonal flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, to ensure the best available protection against flu.
  • Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine should get two doses of flu vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart.
Where can I get more information?

The CDC guidebook for parents that has in-depth answers to common questions.

TEENS AND PRETEENS

Which vaccines are required for teens and preteens?

Check out the School Immunization Requirements section below for a breakdown of the vaccines teens and preteens need according to their age.

Which vaccines are recommended for teens and preteens?
  • Influenza: Every year by the end of October, if possible
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): First dose at 11 through 12 years and a second dose 6-12 months following the first dose (patients starting the series at age 15 or older require a third dose)
  • Meningococcal disease (MenACWY): First dose at 11 through 12 years and a second dose at 16 years
  • Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB): One dose administered between 16 and 23 years
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap): One dose administered at 11 through 12 years

The CDC has a detailed adolescent and teen vaccination schedule.

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccine

HPV is a virus that can cause six different types of cancer. It is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. The virus is easily spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. The HPV vaccine prevents most common health problems associated with the virus.

When should my child receive the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine should be given to all adolescents at 11-12 years, when it is most effective. If given before age 15, two shots are recommended 2-6 months apart. If the series is started after age 15, three shots are needed for full protection. The HPV vaccine may be given anytime from age 9-26 years.

Is the HPV vaccine safe and effective?

The HPV vaccine has been tested in tens of thousands of people in the United States and many other countries. The most common safety concern reported is a brief fainting spell, which is more common among adolescents following any vaccination. Serious side effects, like severe allergic reactions are rare.

Where can I find more information about the HPV vaccine?

Get more information from the CDC: HPV Questions and Answers

Meningococcal Disease Vaccine

Meningococcal disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and meningococcemia (infection of the blood). Meningococcal disease often occurs without warning – even among people who are otherwise healthy.

What vaccines are recommended to prevent meningococcal disease?

There are two vaccines that protect against different types of meningococcal disease. It is important that your preteen or teen gets both vaccines:

  • Meningococcus ACWY protects against four of the five strains that cause disease. Two doses are recommended — one between 11 and 13 years of age and a booster at 16 years of age.
  • Meningococcus B protects against most types of B meningococcus. This vaccine is recommended in either a two- or three-dose series given between 16 and 18 years of age.

Research is underway to develop a meningococcal vaccine that protects against all five subgroups, but it isn’t likely to be available soon.

Why aren’t meningococcus B (MenB) vaccines routinely recommended for all adolescents, in contrast to meningococcus ACWY (Men ACWY) vaccines?

The risk of meningococcal serogroup B disease (MenB) increases during late adolescence and early adulthood but is very low overall. The prevalence of the MenB is low and there is a lack of data on vaccine effectiveness and the period of protection provided by the vaccine. Therefore, the CDC Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) made a permissive recommendation, as there was insufficient evidence to make a routine recommendation for all adolescents.

Where can I find more information about Meningococcal disease?

  • Your child’s healthcare provider can give you information about their unique vaccine needs.
  • Check out the CDC's Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know web page, a well-organized resource that addresses the most common questions about these vaccines.
Tdap Vaccine

Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

Where can I find more information about Tdap?

Flu (Influenza) Vaccine

An annual influenza (flu) vaccine is recommended for all people 6 months of age and older, incluing preteens and teens. Catching the flu can keep kids home from school and activities, and in rare cases flu can lead to complications or even death.
Visit out flu prevention web page.

CHILD CARE AND SCHOOL IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS

Why are vaccines required for child care and school?

Child care and school immunization laws exist to help keep kids safe. Vermont’s immunization requirements are important tools for maintaining high vaccination rates and preventing the spread of disease.

The requirements help to achieve community immunity, effectively limiting the spread of disease in a community when a high percentage of the population are immunized. Achieving and maintaining community immunity protects not only those who have been vaccinated, but also those with compromised or weak immune systems.

What if my child hasn’t had all of their required vaccines when the school year starts?

Children and students without all doses of required vaccines may be provisionally admitted without an exemption if the child has a scheduled appointment to receive the missing vaccines, consistent with the CDC's catch-up immunization schedule.

Learn more about requesting provisional admittance

What is the immunization coverage at my child’s school or child care program?

Find information about immunization coverage at Vermont schools on the Vaccine Coverage page.