Vaccination FAQs (cont.)
Edmond Hooker, MD, DrPH
Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Why do we need vaccines? What is immunization? What is immunity?
- How can I become immune (protected)?
- Are there different types of vaccines?
- Can I receive multiple vaccinations during one visit to the doctor?
- Are there any dangers to being immunized?
- What reactions are likely after an immunization?
- Who should not receive a vaccine?
- If I am pregnant, which vaccines can I receive?
- What are invalid reasons for postponing vaccination?
- Why do we keep giving vaccines if the numbers of cases of the vaccine preventable diseases are at a record low in the United States?
- Is there any financial help for people who have been injured by vaccines?
- I am a health-care worker. Is there anything different that I need to do compared with non-health-care workers?
- I am planning foreign travel. Do I need any additional vaccinations?
- Where can I find additional information on immunizations?
Are there any dangers to being immunized?
There is no such thing as a risk-free vaccine, and many risks may not be appreciated today. However, the health risk of not being vaccinated is real and is clearly greater than that of being vaccinated. Most side effects from vaccinations are mild and limited to local reactions at the site and/or a fever. Unfortunately, there are rarely serious and even fatal side effects related to vaccines. While these events are sad, not taking the vaccine could also result in death or disability.
What reactions are likely after an immunization?
Most reactions to vaccines are mild and self-limited. These are usually limited pain, swelling, and redness at the site of the vaccination. These occur in up to 80% of individuals and start within hours of the vaccination. Some people can get more generalized symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, and feeling generally tired. These systemic (generalized) reactions are seen more commonly with live attenuated vaccines and usually occur seven to 21 days after the vaccine was given. The worst (and very uncommon) reaction is anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). These reactions usually occur shortly after the vaccine is given and can be life-threatening. Fortunately, these reactions only occur two times for every million doses of vaccine given.
Who should not receive a vaccine?
There are two types of contraindications (reasons not to give a vaccine): permanent and temporary.
- The following are permanent contraindications to vaccination:
- severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component (animal proteins [eggs], antibiotic, stabilizer, or preservative) or following a previous dose of the vaccine; and
- encephalopathy within seven days of a pertussis vaccination (not from another identifiable cause).
- The following are precautions/temporary contraindications to vaccination (See Table 6) :
- Pregnancy: Although the risk of vaccination during pregnancy is mostly theoretical, caution is advised. Therefore, women who are known to be pregnant should not receive any of the live vaccines (Table 2). Inactivated vaccines are considered generally safe during pregnancy and should be used when indicated (Table 3). See Table 6 for a complete listing of approved vaccines during pregnancy.
- Immunosuppression: People with active cancer, leukemia, or lymphoma (or people taking high doses of steroids) should not receive live vaccines but can receive inactivated vaccines. See Table 6 for a complete listing of vaccines approved for immunocompromised people.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): Vaccination depends on the severity of the illness. In asymptomatic (without symptoms) individuals, many vaccines are considered safe. In general, the inactivated vaccines are safe for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals infected with HIV. See Table 6 for a complete list of vaccines approved for people with HIV.
- Moderate to severe illness: If someone is ill with more than a simple cold, earache, diarrhea, or other minor illness, vaccination should be postponed until the illness is over.
If I am pregnant, which vaccines can I receive?
If you are pregnant, you should not receive MMR, varicella, or zoster vaccines. These vaccines are made from live attenuated viruses and potentially could cause a problem. You may receive tetanus and influenza vaccines as needed. If you have other risk factors, it is safe to receive hepatitis A & B, meningococcal, and pneumococcal vaccines. See Table 6 for a complete listing.
|Table 6: Vaccine recommendations for Pregnant Women and other special groups http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/adult-schedule.htm|
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