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Frequently Asked Vaccine Questions

GENERAL

What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations (vaccines) protect your child against serious diseases by stimulating the immune system to create antibodies against certain bacteria or viruses. Most vaccinations are given as injections.

What diseases do vaccines protect against?

Vaccines protect against diseases including chicken pox , diphtheria, flu, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), HPV, measles, meningococcal, mumps , whooping cough, polio, german measles, tetanus, rotavirus, shingles, and pneumococcal. Vaccines can't protect children from minor illnesses like colds, but they can keep children safe from many serious diseases.

Why is vaccinating so important?

Disease prevention is key to public health. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines can protect both the people who receive them and the people with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). A vaccine eradicated smallpox, one of the most devastating diseases in history. Over the years, vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious diseases and saved literally millions of lives. Vaccine-preventable diseases have a costly impact, resulting in doctor's visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths.

How do vaccines prevent disease?

Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. This type of infection, however, almost never causes illness, but it does cause the immune system to produce T-lymphocytes and antibodies which fight infection.

Once the imitation infection goes away, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person infected with a disease just before or just after vaccination could develop symptoms and get a disease, because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

What would happen if we stopped immunizations?

In the U.S., vaccination programs have eliminated or significantly reduced many vaccine-preventable diseases. However, these diseases still exist and can once again become common — and deadly — if vaccination coverage does not continue at high levels.

How do I know when to take my child in for shots?

Your healthcare provider should give you a reminder when the next doses are due. If you are not sure, you can do one of two things:

  • Access online immunization records through Nevada WebIZ.  
  • Call your clinic or healthcare provider's office to find out when you should bring your child back.
  • Or check our child immunization page 

Doses cannot be given too close together, or immunity doesn't have time to build up. On the other hand, you don't want to delay your child's shots because during this time, your child remains unprotected against these diseases.

 

How many times do I need to bring my child in for vaccinations?

At least five visits are needed before age 2, but the visits can be timed to coincide with well-child check-ups. Your baby should get the first vaccine (hepatitis B) shortly after birth, while still in the hospital. Multiple visits during the first two years are necessary because there are 14 diseases your baby can be protected against, and most require several doses of vaccine for the best protection. If you access your child's immunization record through Nevada WebIZ, their shot record will have a personalized list of immunizations for which they are due.

I don't know anybody who has had measles or rubella. Why does my child need these shots?

You might not think that measles and rubella are a threat today because you don't see or hear much about them, but they are still around. These diseases are common in other parts of the world and are just a plane ride away. If we stop vaccinating against these diseases, many more people will become infected. Vaccinating your child will keep him or her safe.

Isn't there some way besides vaccination to protect children against these diseases?

No. Breastfeeding offers temporary immunity against some minor infections like colds, but it is not an effective means of protecting a child from the specific diseases preventable by vaccines. Likewise, vitamins don't protect against the specific bacteria and viruses that cause these serious diseases. Of course, infection usually results in immunity, and some parents think that getting the "natural" disease is preferable to "artificial" vaccination. Some even arrange chickenpox "parties" to ensure their child is infected. However, the price paid for natural disease can include paralysis, liver cancer, deafness, blindness, or even death.

What if my child isn't a baby anymore? Is it too late to get him or her vaccinated?

No. Although it's best to have your child begin vaccinations as a newborn, it's never too late to start. If your child has not received any, or all, of his or her vaccinations, now is the best time to start.

What vaccines do adults need?

Adults need vaccines for all of the vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. For a list of these, visit our adult immunization page. Diseases that are especially serious for adults age 65 and older are as follows: Tdap, herpes zoster (shingles), influenza (flu), and pneumococcal. More information on these diseases is also located on the CDC website.

How do I comfort my baby after his/her shots?

Some vaccines that protect children from serious diseases can also cause discomfort for a while. A mild fever and soreness are very common and can be easily resolved with a medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (follow the package directions for dosages). Ice packs or cool, wet washcloths can also offer relief from soreness and swelling.

SAFETY

Are there any vaccine side effects?

Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part, these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days. Listed on the CDC website are vaccines licensed in the United States and side effects that have been associated with each of them. This information is copied directly from CDC's Vaccine Information Statements, which in turn are derived from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for each vaccine. Vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects.

What if my child has a cold or fever, or is taking antibiotics? Can he/she still get vaccinated?

Yes. Your child can still be vaccinated if he or she has a mild illness, a low-grade fever, or is taking antibiotics. Ask your child's healthcare provider if you have questions.

I heard that some vaccines can cause autism. Is this true?

No. Scientific studies and reviews have found no relationship between vaccines and autism. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academy of Medicine also agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children now recognized to have autism.

Is it okay for my baby to have so many shots at once?

Yes. Studies show that kids’ bodies — even infants — can handle many shots at once. Having several vaccines at once is safe, even for a newborn. Combination vaccines protect your child against more than one disease with a single shot. This reduces the number of shots and office visits your child would need. It’s not your imagination; there are a greater number of shots now than even a few years ago. That’s because as science advances, we are able to protect your child against more diseases than ever before.

COST

What effect does the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) have on immunizations?

All children and adults enrolled in new group or individual private health plans will be eligible to receive vaccines recommended by the ACIP without any cost-sharing requirements when provided by an in-network provider as of September 23, 2010. The following vaccines are considered an essential health benefit: 

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Shingles
  • Human Papillomavirus 
  • Influenza
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
  • Varicella
  • Rotavirus
  • Polio

My children are covered by Nevada Check Up; does that mean I will be billed for vaccines?

Children covered under the State Child Health Insurance Program, or Nevada Check Up, receive state-funded vaccines, and therefore parents will not be billed for the vaccines.

Will I be billed for the administration of a vaccine?

Providers may charge you for an administration fee; however, Vaccine for Children (VFC) providers enrolled with Nevada Immunization program may not refuse to administer vaccines due to inability for parents to pay for administration fee.

How will I know if vaccines are covered under my health plan?

Parents should check their insurance policies to see which vaccines are covered by their plans.

I have health insurance, but they do not cover vaccines. What options do I have?

You have a few options. First, call your health plan and discuss your questions. Second, many employers’ health plans offer Flex Plan benefits. This option can offset the expense of out-of-pocket vaccination expenses which are not covered by insurance. In Nevada, insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines is considered “underinsured,” and you can be vaccinated at a Federally Qualified Health Center

I just took my children to their physician for vaccines; what will I see on my bill?

The billing you receive, also called the explanation of benefits (EOB) report, may include deductibles, administration fees, coinsurance and/or co-payments for vaccinations, and any associated office visit charges.

Which children are eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program?

Children younger than 19 years of age who meet at least one of the following criteria are eligible to receive VFC vaccine:

  • Medicaid eligible: a child who is eligible for the Medicaid program. (For the purposes of the VFC program, the terms "Medicaid-eligible" and "Medicaid-enrolled" are equivalent and refer to children who have health insurance covered by a state Medicaid program.)
  • Uninsured: a child who has no health insurance coverage.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: as defined by the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (25 U.S.C. 1603)

Underinsured: a child who has commercial (private) health insurance but the coverage does not include vaccines, a child whose insurance covers only selected vaccines (VFC-eligible for non-covered vaccines only), or a child whose insurance caps vaccine coverage at a certain amount. Once that coverage amount is reached, the child is categorized as underinsured. Underinsured children are eligible to receive VFC vaccine only through a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinic (RHC). Children whose health insurance covers the cost of vaccinations are not eligible for VFC vaccines, even when a claim for the cost of the vaccine and its administration would be denied for payment by the insurance carrier because the plan's deductible had not been met. Get more information on the VFC Program here.

How do I find a VFC provider?

HPV

Why is the HPV vaccine recommended at such a young age?

For HPV vaccines to be effective, they should be given prior to exposure to HPV. Preteens should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV. The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young adults.

Should boys get HPV vaccine too?

Yes. This vaccine helps prevent boys from getting infected with the types of HPV than can cause cancers of the throat, penis, and anus. The vaccine also prevents genital warts. When boys are vaccinated, they are less likely to spread HPV to their current and future partners.

How well does HPV vaccine work?

The HPV vaccine works extremely well. Clinical trials showed the vaccines provided close to 100% protection against precancers and for HPV9, or genital warts. Since the vaccine was first recommended in 2006, there has been a 56% reduction in HPV infections among teen girls in the U.S., even with very low HPV vaccination rates. Research has also shown that fewer teens are getting genital warts. In other countries such as Australia where there is higher HPV vaccination coverage, HPV vaccine has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women in that country. Also, genital warts decreased dramatically in young women and men in Australia since the HPV vaccine was introduced.

Does someone have to restart the HPV vaccine series if too much time passes between the shots?

For persons initiating vaccination before their 15th birthday, the recommended immunization schedule is 2 doses of HPV vaccine. The second dose should be administered 6–12 months after the first dose (0, 6- to 12-month schedule.) For persons initiating vaccination on or after their 15th birthday, the recommended immunization schedule is three doses of HPV vaccine. The second dose should be administered 1–2 months after the first dose, and the third dose should be administered 6 months after the first dose (0, 1–2, 6-month schedule.) However, if someone waits longer than that between shots, they do not need to restart the series. Even if has been months or years since the last shot, the series should still be completed.

How do we know that HPV vaccine is safe?

All vaccines used in the United States are required to go through years of extensive safety testing before they are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once in use, they are continually monitored for their safety and effectiveness. CDC uses three systems to monitor and evaluate the safety of vaccines after they are licensed. Studies have been conducted to determine the safety of HPV vaccines. However, there were no serious safety concerns confirmed in any of these studies. The findings of HPV vaccine safety studies are similar to the safety reviews of the other adolescent vaccines, Tdap and meningococcal vaccines. In the years of HPV vaccine safety studies and monitoring that have been conducted since the vaccine was licensed in 2006, no serious safety concerns have been causally associated with HPV vaccination.

Will the vaccine cause fertility issues?

There are no data to suggest that getting HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility. In fact, getting vaccinated and protecting against cervical cancer can protect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have healthy babies. It is possible that the treatment of cervical cancer could leave a woman unable to have children. It is also possible that treatment for cervical pre-cancer could put a woman at risk for problems with her cervix, which could cause preterm delivery or other problems.

MEASLES

I've heard there are ongoing measles outbreaks in Europe. What is the risk to the U.S.?

More than 82,000 European children and adults became infected with measles in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and more than 70 deaths have been reported in 47 countries including France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Those who travel to countries experiencing outbreaks may end up infecting those in the U.S. who are unvaccinated. Checking your vaccination records is recommended by the CDC before international travel.

My friend told me that the MMR vaccine causes “shedding.” Is this true?

MMR is a live vaccine, and based on research, the measles and mumps attenuated viruses do not cause shedding (this is when a virus replicates inside your body and is released into the environment). A much greater concern than live vaccine shedding of a weakened strain would be that the unvaccinated child might get a natural infection with measles or chickenpox and pass that on to a person with an immune system problem. Read more here. 

Why does this matter, since measles is just a rash?

Measles is not just a rash. According to the Immunization Action Coalition: Measles can lead to serious complications and death, even with modern medical care. The 1989–1991 measles outbreak in the U.S. resulted in more than 55,000 cases and more than 100 deaths. In the United States from 1987 to 2000, the most commonly reported complications associated with measles infection were pneumonia (6%), otitis media (7%), and diarrhea (8%). For every 1,000 reported measles cases in the United States, approximately one case of encephalitis and two to three deaths resulted. The risk for death from measles or its complications is greater for infants, young children, and adults than for older children and adolescents. SSPE is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). The disease may develop due to reactivation of the measles virus and usually develops two to 10 years after the original viral attack.

Do adults need an MMR booster shot?

According to Dr. Robert Schooley, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UC San Diego: Some might. Anyone born before 1957 likely has immunity because the virus was in wide circulation until the first vaccine was introduced in 1963. However, a second dose was not added to the childhood vaccination schedule until 1989. So adults born after 1957 but before 1985 may have received only one MMR shot and may benefit from a second dose. Also, the CDC recommends two MMR doses for anyone who received an inactivated or “killed” measles vaccine, or one of unknown origin, from 1963 to 1967. That’s because more recent versions of the vaccine are more effective. If you are unsure about your vaccination status, you can check with your healthcare provider.

Does the MMR Vaccine cause autism?

There is no scientific evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism. The question about a possible link between MMR vaccine and autism has been extensively reviewed by independent groups of experts in the U.S. including the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. These reviews have concluded that the available epidemiologic evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism. Additionally, the largest study to date of the MMR vaccine was recently published and found no link to autism. 

What are my options in protecting my children from unvaccinated children?

We recommend discussing vaccination status with family and friends if you are concerned. If your children are fully vaccinated, chances of contracting measles is reduced; however, the more children immunized in a community helps protect everyone. The majority of cases from recent outbreaks are in unvaccinated individuals.

Can anything kill the measles virus in the air or on surfaces — disinfectant sprays, wipes, etc.?

Infected droplets of mucus can remain active and can be passed on by touching (they are contagious) for around two hours. This means that the virus can live outside the body — for example, on surfaces and door handles. The CDC recommends to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, tables, counters.

Is it possible to get the measles shot only — not combined with the mumps and rubella for children who have medical conditions that put them at risk?

It is not possible, as single-antigen vaccines are no longer produced for use in the United States.

If you have no idea about the second dose and you are an adult and your family doctor retired years ago and no medical records are still around, should we get another dose? If our kids have had them all, should they get another, or are they ok?

If you don't know your vaccination status as an adult, it is recommended to have two doses for full protection. Children who have had two doses have completed the recommendation.

My child is in a daycare facility; do I have a legal right to find out if the other children in her room are current on their MMR vaccinations?

Nevada requires certain vaccinations for enrollment in licensed child care centers. You can ask the child care center for their vaccination rates, or you can search on vfcnevada.org to see if they've reported their immunization rates.

Do vaccines still contain mercury?

That seems to be a common complaint heard from anti-vaxxers. Since 2001, with the exception of some influenza (flu) vaccines, thimerosal (mercury-containing preservative) is not used as a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines.