Frequently Asked Questions
See answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Submit additional questions.
Q: I’m pregnant and worried that vaccines might harm my baby. What should I do?
A: It’s best to be vaccinated before pregnancy when possible, but some immunizations can, and should, be given during pregnancy to protect both the mother and baby. These include the inactivated flu vaccine (not the live activated nasal vaccine) and the pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. Both the Tdap vaccine and the flu vaccine are recommended during each pregnancy. Some vaccines, such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and HPV should not be given during pregnancy. Before you get any vaccines, check with your healthcare provider to make sure they are right for you.
Q: Is it safe for my baby to receive so many vaccinations at the same time?
A: Yes. Even if your baby receives several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens that babies normally encounter every day in their environment.
Vaccines do not overload the immune system, but rather provide your child with the antibodies they need to fight off the serious illnesses for which they have been vaccinated.
Q: Why do vaccines contain chemicals?
A: A very small amount of chemicals are added to vaccines to inactivate a virus or bacteria and stabilize the vaccine, helping to preserve the vaccine and prevent it from losing its potency over time. Ensuring that vaccines are potent, sterile, and safe requires the addition of minute amounts of chemical additives. These chemicals are added to vaccines as preservatives to prevent contamination and the growth of potentially harmful bacteria during production and storage of the vaccine.
Q: Doesn’t the flu vaccine give you the flu?
A: No. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. Injected flu vaccines only contain inactivated (dead) virus, and a dead virus can’t infect you. Truth is that seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 people in the US each year and kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people.
Q: Why vaccinate? Don’t infants have natural immunity?
A: Babies may get some temporary immunity (protection) from their mother during the last few weeks of pregnancy—but only for the diseases to which mom is immune. Breastfeeding may also protect your baby temporarily from minor infections, like colds. However, these antibodies do not last long, leaving the infant vulnerable to disease.
Natural immunity occurs when your child is exposed to a disease and becomes infected. It is true that natural immunity usually results in better immunity than vaccination, but the risks are much greater. For example, a natural chickenpox infection may result in pneumonia, whereas the vaccine might only cause a sore arm for a couple of days.