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What exactly does each vaccine do?

Doctor  laughing with baby

What are DTaP, Hib, and MMR? What do these letters stand for? Learn about the vaccines that your child needs and why the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they are important: 

DTaP - Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. DTaP is an essential vaccine that protects your child against all three of these diseases: 

     • Diphtheria leads to a thick coating in the back of the nose or throat that makes it hard to breathe or swallow. Without treatment, diphtheria can damage the heart or cause paralysis. 20% of children who get diphtheria die. 
     • Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is especially dangerous for babies. 1% of babies treated for pertussis in a hospital dies.
     • Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a bacterial infection that comes from dirt, dust, and manure.

Flu - Millions of young children get sick with the flu every year. The flu can cause pneumonia, dehydration and exacerbate other medical conditions. 

HepA - Hepatitis A is usually asymptomatic in children under the age of 6, but older children and adults may get extremely sick with fever, loss of appetite and stomach pain. 

HepB - Hepatitis B is a contagious disease that causes liver damage and increases your risk for liver cancer. Infants and young children don’t usually have symptoms. Babies get their first of three hepatitis B shots before you leave the hospital after they’re born!

Hib - Haemophilus influenza Type B is a bacterial infection that causes fever, cough, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. On rare occasions, it causes bacterial meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, or the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Babies and children under age 5 are at the highest risk.

HPV – Human Papillomavirus spreads from skin-to-skin contact. 90% of infections resolve on their own in a couple of years, but long-lasting infections may cause reproductive, anal, or oral cancer.

IPV - Inactivated polio vaccine. 25% of people who get polio experience flu-like symptoms for 2-5 days. In rare cases, it can cause meningitis, paralysis, and even death.

MMR – Measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR vaccine protects against all three of these diseases:
     • Measles can cause a rash and fever. It can be especially dangerous for babies and young children. 
     • Mumps can cause a fever and swollen glands under the ears or jaw. Most cases of mumps are mild. 

     • Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is usually mild in children. Pregnant women may experience complications if they get rubella, including miscarriage, birth defects, and even death. 

PCV - Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. A bacteria called pneumococcus causes pneumococcal disease. It’s usually mild, but it can cause disability and even death in younger children. 

RV – Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach pain. For babies and young children, it can cause dehydration. Untreated dehydration can lead to serious complications including death. 

VAR - Varicella is also known as chickenpox. Chickenpox is potentially life-threatening to babies. It causes an itchy rash with raised blisters and fever. Some people only get a few blisters, but others get hundreds.

1. Recommended Vaccines Needed by Age — U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Related resources

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    Florida Vaccines for Children Program

    Provides free vaccines for children up to age 18 who qualify for eligibility through the Florida Department of Health

    877-888-7468 Website
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    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Vaccine and immunization information, including schedules, a tracking system, lists, fact sheets, books

    800-232-4636 Website
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    Florida SHOTS

    State Health Online Tracking System – free statewide, centralized immunization registry that helps parents, health-care providers and schools track immunization records

    877-888-7468 Website