Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor



Am Fam Physician. 2017 Jun 15;95(12):online.

  See related article on vaccinations.

Why does my child need to get vaccines?

Before vaccines were available, many children died from the 15 diseases we can now prevent. Chickenpox, whooping cough, the flu, measles, and meningitis are very dangerous and can still infect unvaccinated children.

Are vaccines safe?

Yes, vaccines save lives. The most common side effects are fever and soreness where the shot was given. Only one or two people per million have serious reactions. Death and serious harm from the disease are much more common than any risk from getting the shot.

Do vaccines cause autism?

No. Autism happens just as often in children who do not get shots as in those who do. The symptoms of autism first show up at about the same age that children receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, so some parents think they are related. It has been proven that they are not.

Are all of these vaccines necessary?

If children are not vaccinated, they could easily get the disease from someone, even if that person does not have symptoms. Preventable diseases like measles, mumps, the flu, and whooping cough are still very common in other countries. Even in the United States, children die every year from these illnesses. There is no harm to a healthy child from receiving several vaccines at once.

If everyone else gets vaccines, why does it matter if my child doesn't get them?

Your child needs to be protected against these diseases as soon as it is safe to do so. For vaccinations to work, at least 90% to 95% of people need to get them. Vaccination also protects others you care about, such as grandparents, friends, and family members. Unvaccinated children can spread disease to children who are too young to be vaccinated or to people with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer.

What is the harm of separating or delaying vaccines?

The best protection is to start and finish every vaccine series on time so your child is not left unprotected against some diseases. Delaying shots just increases the time that your child can get the disease.

If you decide to not vaccinate or to delay vaccinations, remember to do the following when your child is ill. These steps could save your child's life.

  • Visit your doctor.

  • Tell the medical staff your child has not received all of his or her vaccines.

  • Keep your child's vaccination record with you.

  • Learn the early signs and symptoms of the disease your child is not vaccinated against.

  • If you choose not to vaccinate your child, understand the risks and responsibilities.

Where can I get more information on the safety of vaccinations?

Your doctor

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Immunization Action Coalition and

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2017 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

More in AFP


Oct 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article