Infants and Vaccines: Answering Parents’ Questions

Vaccines, also called immunizations, are a safe and effective way to protect children from many common diseases. If parents delay or avoid child vaccinations, they can put their child – and others – at risk for potentially dangerous diseases.

Use the information on this page to help you answer parents’ common questions about infant vaccines. It was adapted from a longer list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has directed the nation's vaccination program for more than 60 years. Print the CDC’s FAQs in English and Spanish [PDF, 147KB].

Are vaccines safe?

Yes. Vaccines are very safe. Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year. The United States has had a safe and effective child vaccination program for more than 60 years.

My baby’s so little. Why does she need vaccines now?

Vaccines should start early in life, before children are exposed to serious diseases. The vaccination schedule helps protect your baby from diseases that can cause pain, disability or even death. See the 2016 immunization schedule for more information.

Why are there so many shots?

Depending on the vaccine, it can take several doses to build immunity and prevent disease. Every dose of a vaccine is important to protect against infectious diseases that can be especially serious for infants and very young children..

Can I space out the shots so my baby doesn’t get too many at once?

Evidence suggests that changing the vaccination schedule is not a good idea. Think of each shot like a dose of preventive medicine. If your baby misses a shot, he hasn’t had all the protection he needs and may still be at risk for disease.

Our health system has safely followed a multi-dose vaccination schedule for a long time. The CDC even has tips for making the visits less stressful.

Will my baby have any side effects from vaccinations?

Vaccines, like any medication, may cause some side effects. The most common are very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site. Side effects typically only last a couple of days and are treatable. For example, you can apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth on the sore area to ease discomfort.

Do vaccines cause autism?

No scientific studies or reviews have found a relationship between vaccines and autism. The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading health organizations would not recommend them if this were a risk.

My child is sick right now. Can she still get shots?

Yes, children can usually get vaccinated even if they have a mild illness like a cold, earache, mild fever, or diarrhea. You can discuss this with your doctor.

See immunization in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (1302.42) and Caring for Our Children's Basics [PDF, 910KB].

Infants and Vaccines: Answering Parents’ Questions. HHS/CDC. 2016. English.

Last Reviewed: December 2016

Last Updated: December 7, 2016