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Health > Kids > Immunization


Immunization (vaccination) is a way of creating immunity to certain diseases by using small amounts of a killed or weakened microorganism that causes the particular disease.

Microorganisms can be viruses, such as the measles virus, or they can be bacteria, such as pneumococcus. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to react as if there were a real infection — it fends off the "infection" and remembers the organism so that it can fight it quickly should it enter the body later.

Babies get so many shots these days! Many parents are concerned that the sheer number of vaccines might overwhelm, weaken, or use up a baby's immature immune system. But a baby's immune system is built to make antibodies to as many as 10,000 foreign proteins. If a baby were to receive all 11 available vaccines at once, this would engage only a tiny fraction of the immune system.

Tips for parents

Immunizations must be given as an injection (shot). The following tips can help make the experience easier for your child:

Tell older children that the shot is needed to keep them safe and healthy. Knowing what to expect ahead of time may reassure the child.

Explain to the child that it is OK to cry, but suggest that the child try to be brave. Explain that you do not like injections either, but you try to be brave, too. Praise the child after the injection is over, whether or not he or she cries.

Distract the child at the moment of the injection. For example, point out a picture on the wall, have them count or say their "ABCs", or tell them something funny.

Try to be calm. The child will notice if you cringe before the shot.

Plan something fun to do afterward. A trip to the park, eating out, or other entertainment after the shot can make the next one less scary.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

If your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization.

If a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) occurred after a previous injection of the HBV vaccine

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

The vaccine may cause mild fever, and soreness and redness in the area where the shot was given. Pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your child's doctor about the appropriate dose.

When to Call the Doctor

If you're not sure of the recommended schedule for the hepatitis B vaccine

If you have concerns about your own HBV carrier state

If moderate or serious adverse effects appear after your child has received an HBV injection

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