If you are young enough, you might remember going to the doctor to get your “shots” in order to start school.  And let’s face it, getting these shots is no fun?  So why did your mom and dad insist you get them? And why do people take them so seriously?  Read on to find out more about why these shots are so important and how they can protect you.

What are Vaccines?

Vaccines are a very special kind of shot. They contain either a dead or live (but weakened) virus that is injected into your bloodstream.  These viruses cannot give you the disease that they would normally cause. However, your body recognizes them as foreign invader and makes antibodies against them. That is why, for instance, if you get a vaccine for the chicken pox, you will not get chicken pox itself.

Because a lot of kids do not like getting injections, some vaccines can be given through a nasal spray and research is ongoing to find out if there are other, needleless ways to give these vaccines.

Why Do You Need Vaccines?

Vaccines were designed to prevent you and the people around you from getting certain diseases that were once common in America (and other parts of the world) and could result in serious consequences like death or disability for the children who got them.  For vaccines to work their best, however, it is important for everyone or almost everyone to get them.  This achieves what is called herd immunity, which happens when all or nearly all members of a group are immune (protected against) a certain virus.

What Vaccines Do You Need?

Relax – getting vaccines is not like going to the supermarket and picking out meals for the week! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has come up with a schedule of vaccinations that will be done when your family takes you to the family practice doctor:

At birth, you should be given a shot against Hepatitis B.

At 1-2 months, you should be given another shot of Hepatitis B.

At 4 months, you should be given shots for the respiratory virus (RV) as well as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (called the DTaP), hemoinfluenza B, (HIB), pneumonococcal virus (PCV) and IPV.

At 6 months, you need the RV, DTaP and PVC.

Between the ages of 6 and 18 months, you need Hepatitis B, IPV,  and the flu shot.

Between the age of 11 and 12 months, you need the HIB, PVC, MMR, varicella and Hepatitis A shots.

Between the ages of 13 and 15 months you need the flu shot

Between the ages of 11 and 12, you need the shot against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Between the ages of 13 and 15, you will need the flu shot.

Between the ages of 16 and 18, you will need booster shots for flu and meningococcal virus.

What are the Side Effects of Vaccines?

There are side effects when you get a shot, though some kids have few side effects at all. The most common are mild redness, soreness and some swelling at the site where the injection was give. Also, though this is rare, a child will have an allergic reaction to the vaccination which will require them to be treated at the hospital.

Are Vaccines Safe?

Despite the side effects, vaccines are safe and are rigorously tested to ahead of time to make sure that children are receiving good quality products.  Some of the best and oldest medical research groups in the country – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the  Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration support the use of vaccines for disease prevention.

So while vaccines are certainly no fun, they are also very, very safe and can help save you and others from serious – even fatal – diseases.  It is, in fact, estimated by the American Academy of Pediatrics that most vaccines are 90-95% effective.  The United Nations estimates that vaccines save around 2.5 million lives every single year and that, just in the years between 1994 and 2014, 732,000 Americans were saved through this procedure.

So make sure that when you are taken into the doctor’s office for vaccines that you help the nurse and doctor.  Vaccines do a hurt a little bit when you are actually getting them done, their reactions are better than going through the diseases they are designed to prevent.