Immunizations: What you need to know for your family’s health

August 07, 2023

Primary Care Wellness Healthy Aging
Kid smiling with band-aid on his arm

Immunizations – also called vaccines – are essential to safely protect you and your family from getting potentially serious illnesses. With our lives getting back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be a good time to ensure that all members of your family are on-track with their immunizations according to Ashley Kelly, a family nurse practitioner at Riverside Hayes Medical Center. Plus, with the start of a new school year right around the corner, your child may be due for a well-child visit.

Vaccines can prevent diseases like measles, polio, whooping cough and mumps. Haven’t heard much about these conditions? That’s because vaccines have been preventing them for years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in the last 20 years, vaccinations have helped avoid over 20 million hospital visits.

Debunking myths about the COVID-19 vaccine

As the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out for different age groups over the past couple years, a lot of misinformation circulated in mainstream media. For example, a myth circulated that the COVID-19 vaccine contained live virus that could make someone contract COVID-19. As the CDC reports, this is simply not true.

Another commonly circulated myth was that the COVID-19 vaccine contains dangerous ingredients. In reality, this vaccine contains many of the same ingredients found in the foods we eat every day, such as fats, sugars and salts.

Experts have found the COVID-19 vaccine to be safe and effective at reducing the spread of the virus – especially to vulnerable, high-risk groups. Unless they have been advised otherwise by a doctor, all members of your family age 6 months and up should receive a full series of the COVID-19 vaccine plus applicable boosters.

How do vaccines work?

A vaccine introduces your body to a small amount of virus or bacteria that causes illness, says Ms. Kelly. Don’t worry; it’s not enough to make you sick. The vaccine provides just enough virus or bacteria to train your body to build a strong defense. This way, if you’re exposed again, your body already knows how to fight off the illness. It has developed immunity.

Are vaccines dangerous?


Vaccines are safe and effective for most people. While some people may experience mild symptoms, the protection against serious illness far outweighs the risk of the vaccine.

Side effects of vaccines are usually minor and may include nausea and fussiness in children. Providers can typically give vaccines as a shot or in liquid drops. For shots, people sometimes feel temporary pain and redness at the injection site.

More serious side effects, like an allergic reaction, are possible but very rare adds Ms. Kelly.


“Especially recently, we’ve seen overwhelming evidence confirming vaccine safety,” says Ms. Kelly. Your doctor will review your health history before giving a vaccine to make sure you aren’t at high risk for a negative reaction.


Vaccines by ages and stages


The CDC provides recommendations for vaccines. Doctors provide most vaccines during childhood to help build up the immune system against common infections.

Ms. Kelly recommends working with your doctor to get your vaccines in order and on time. “The best way to protect yourself and your family,” she says, “is to follow the vaccine schedule from the CDC.”

The current CDC vaccine recommendations by age include:

Vaccines for babies (0 to 18 months)

  • Hepatitis B
  • Rotavirus
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus & Acellular pertussis (DTap)
  • Pneumococcal
  • Inactivated Polio vaccine (IVP)
  • Haemophilus Influenzae type B (HIB)
  • Influenza
  • Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Varicella

Vaccines recommended each year (beginning at 6 months)

  • Influenza
  • COVID-19

Vaccines for children (4 to 6 years)

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus & Acellular pertussis (DTap)
  • Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
  • Inactivated Polio vaccine (IVP)
  • Varicella

Vaccines for adolescents (11 to 18 years)

  • Meningococcal
  • Tdap
  • Human Papilloma Vaccine (HPV)

Vaccine recommended every 10 years (beginning at 18 years old)

  • Tetanus booster

Vaccine for adults (60 years old)

  • Zoster (Shingles)

Vaccine for adults (65 years old)

  • Pneumococcal

Modifications to the recommended vaccine schedule

Your doctor may need to adjust this schedule and the type of vaccines you receive in certain situations, including for:

  • Certain health conditions
  • Locations with a high risk for specific illnesses
  • International travel
  • Healthcare workers

Keep these situations in mind if you are changing jobs, taking an overseas trip or saying good-bye to a teenager headed off to college. Check with your doctor to make sure you have any necessary vaccinations.

Stay on a vaccine schedule to protect your health

We urge you to follow the latest CDC vaccine schedule recommendations. It’s a safe and effective way to prevent disease and stay healthy.

Looking for a doctor for you or your children? Schedule an appointment with Ms. Kelly or via MyChart with a Riverside primary care provider who meets your needs.


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