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Why should I vaccinate my child - and answers to other commonly asked questions about shots

Young girl receiving shot.

Question: I’ve read so many arguments on social media about immunizations. I’m confused. Why as a parent should I immunize my child?

Answer: This question is quite common, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), immunizations are important for many reasons. Some of the reasons are:

  • Diseases are becoming rare due to vaccinations.
  • In order to eliminate a disease, we must continue to vaccinate the majority of the population. If we vaccinate and make sure that diseases are not spread to others, we can also work on the elimination of diseases that were once common years ago.
  • Vaccinations decrease the amount of epidemics (disease outbreaks) that occur.
  • If we do not vaccinate, diseases that were once eliminated will slowly start to come back and there is a chance that epidemics can occur.
  • We vaccinate to protect the future. The following generations (children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) are protected when we vaccinate and do not allow a disease to comeback.

Q: Haven’t most childhood illnesses been wiped out at this point?

A: Diseases that were once eliminated or very close to elimination, such as Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Polio, and Measles, are all on the rise. It is important to vaccinate to eliminate these diseases.

Q: What are the possible side effects of immunizations? What about the supposed connection between autism and immunizations? Has that been debunked?

A: Each vaccine can possibly have side effects. The most common side effects from vaccines are muscle tenderness and redness at the injection site. Each vaccine has a Vaccine Information Statements (VIS). The recommendation is to review this statement for each vaccine prior to vaccination to be aware of the potential side effects and how to manage each side effect. Click here to read the Vaccine Information Statements.

Vaccines do not cause autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization. Click here for more information from the CDC on vaccine safety. 

Q: Can I spread out or delay my child’s immunizations?

A: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices does not recommend delaying or using alternative immunization schedules. Click here for the recommended immunization schedule.

Q: What if my religion doesn’t believe in vaccinations? Can my child still attend public school?

A: If vaccines are against or in conflict with the religious tenets and practices of the child’s parent or legal guardian, Form DH 681 (Religious Exemption from Immunization) can be issued. Please click here to learn more about obtaining a Form DH 681 (Religious Exemption from Immunization).

Q: Can you explain the ‘herd immunity’ theory of vaccinating?

A: Herd immunity occurs when many people in a community are vaccinated, and the few people of the community who do not get vaccinated (or can’t get vaccinated because of weakened immune systems, like children receiving chemotherapy for cancer) won’t get a disease, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The theory of this concept is the more people who are vaccinated, the less viruses and bacteria are able to spread through a community and infect people who are vulnerable.

To learn more about “Herd Immunity” click here.

Q: What about voluntary immunizations, like the flu vaccine and the one for HPV? Are those necessary as well?

A: Vaccinations available for the following: Flu, HPV, Meningococcal, and Hepatitis A. These vaccines are not required in the state of Florida, but strongly recommended (when age appropriate) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

Q: Where can I get my child vaccinated if I don’t have a regular doctor?

A: Your child can receive immunizations from the Immunization Outreach Van. To see the van’s schedule, click here. 

To review the vaccine and physical requirements for entry into a Palm Beach County school, click here. 


Dana Heinlein, nursing director, Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County



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