Fact Or Fiction

Side Effects

FACT: Vaccine side effects are minimal in comparison to the disease they prevent”

Getting your child vaccinated is stressful for both parents and child. Seeing your child’s pain and listening to her cries can be frightening. It’s even more challenging when a child gets a fever or rash after getting a shot. Trust that these reactions – crying, fever, and rash – are all common side effects of vaccines are signs that her body is working hard to produce antibodies that will protect her from the disease.

You are making the best choice for your child’s health, even if there is a possibility she will experience minor side effects. The diseases that you are protecting against can be far worse than any of the possible minor side effects.

Vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing prior to being approved by the FDA and are continually monitored for safety. All the ingredients are tested and are safe. The vaccines are also studied to be administered together to protect your baby.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in most cases vaccine side effects are minor and go away within a few days. Side effects vary according to vaccine type, but generally mild side effects may include:

  • Pain, redness, tenderness or swelling at injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching at injection site
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or fainting (most common in adolescents)
  • Fever
  • Mild rash

Parents should keep an eye out for any unusual condition, such as a high fever, weakness, or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. If your child does experience signs of an allergic reaction or other side effect, you should contact your child’s doctor immediately.

There are some children who should not get vaccinated, including those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, are moderately or severely ill at the time or who have certain neurological disorders. If you have any concerns it is always best to ask your doctor or health care professional ahead of time.

While serious side effects are rare, parents are encouraged to report any severe side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which serves to report, analyze, and make incidences of adverse side effects available to the public. The FDA examines these individual reports to search for possible patterns associated with vaccine lots. If a lot shows unusual patterns or a number of serious reactions, the FDA performs further analysis to determine whether or not the lot is safe for use, or if further action is needed.

The CDC Safety Office and eight managed care organizations (MCOs) also developed the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) Project in 1990 to monitor, address and research immunization safety concerns. By gathering information from each participating MCO site, the VSD allows vaccine researchers to plan studies, investigate vaccine issues and fill specific gaps in knowledge of adverse (serious) side effects. The Project has helped guide National Immunization policy decisions, and has published more than 75 scientific articles addressing immunization safety.

Millions of children are vaccinated every year and approximately 80 percent of all children are vaccinated on time. The number of children who experience side effects is very small compared to the number of children who benefit from vaccines. Immunizing your child provides an enormous benefit to his or her health.

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