The risk of catching many diseases is very high in the first year of a child's life. That’s why it is recommended that you get children vaccinated according to the immunization schedule. In following this schedule, you ensure that your child is protected at the time they need it most. Even if you dislike the idea of having your child receive an injection, you are protecting them from catching diseases that can have long-term effects.
For further information on immunization in general and how to get your child vaccinated, see the Vaccination page.
Risks associated with not vaccinating your child
Children who are not vaccinated are more likely than anyone else to catch a contagious disease. Such risk is present even in countries where the vast majority of people are vaccinated. For example, data in the United States shows that children who are not vaccinated are:
- 22 to 35 times more likely to have measles than vaccinated children
- 6 times more likely to have whooping cough than vaccinated children
Also, children who are not vaccinated can spread contagious diseases to others.
Benefits of multiple injections
Depending on their age, your child is likely to receive more than one vaccine in a single visit. Vaccines administered at the same time are called “multiple injections”. Only vaccines that are safe and effective when given together can be administered at the same time. This practice has several benefits. For example:
- Vaccines given together protect against diseases just as effectively as when administered separately
- Children are protected earlier against a larger number of diseases
- Parents save time and avoid travel and costs related to repeated appointments
- The child experiences less vaccine-related stress because the multiple injections reduce the number of vaccination appointments. In fact, it is proven that a child in pain after a recent immunization session is likely to be more anxious at the following session
- Symptoms that may occur after a vaccine are felt only once instead of being experienced several times
Safety of multiple injections
Scientific studies have shown that children risk nothing in receiving several vaccines in a single immunization session. This practice is safe and applied worldwide.
Vaccines are just a small fraction of all substances to which a child is exposed daily. Every day, their immune system is exposed to thousands of microbes. The immune system’s ability to react is 1000 times greater than what is necessary to respond to vaccines. There is therefore no limit to the number of vaccines a child can receive at the same time.
Moreover, administering several vaccines at the same time does not increase the frequency, intensity or severity of symptoms. Symptoms are the same as when the vaccines are administered on different visits.
Also, treatment of the child’s discomfort is the same whether they’ve received one or several vaccines.
When possible, children preferably receive a combined vaccine, which is a single-injection vaccine that fights several diseases. For example, the DTaP/IPV/Hib Vaccine protects your child against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio and Hæmophilus influenzae type B infections. Giving a combined vaccine to protect against these diseases both decreases the number of injections and the child’s discomfort.
There is continued research to find other effective and safe methods for administering vaccines, including oral vaccines given through the mouth or nasal vaccines sprayed into the nose. The objective lies in protecting children without making them suffer needlessly.
Preparing children for vaccination
You can prepare your child for vaccination, especially if they are of an age to understand.
There are several ways to reduce the pain and anxiety of vaccination. See the Reducing the Pain and Anxiety of Vaccination in Children page and discuss them with the person administering the vaccines during your appointment.
Managing post-vaccination symptoms
Some of the vaccines prescribed in the immunization schedule for children may cause side effects, such as fever and discomfort. These reactions are often mild, short-lived, and easy to treat and relieve.
Usually, these symptoms are:
- loss of appetite
- muscle pain
If the child has one or more symptoms mentioned above, he or she may resume its regular activities if its health condition allows.
As a precaution, and since several symptoms can also be caused by an infectious respiratory illness, it is recommended to take the steps to prevent the transmission of the disease.
Measles, mumps, rubella, or varicella vaccines may cause reactions within 5 to 12 days of vaccination. After receiving one of these vaccines, a child displaying these symptoms during that period must stay home and avoid contact with other people for 48 hours.
During the 48-hour observation period, the people living with the child and who have had contact with them may pursue their regular activities while taking into account public health measures.
If the symptoms lessen or disappear within 48 hours of their appearance, children may resume their regular activities if their health condition allows.
If the symptoms persist within 48 hours of their appearance, you may seek medical advice from a healthcare professional based on the severity of the symptoms.
Last update: June 29, 2023