Vaccine Information

One of public health’s greatest accomplishments is the development of vaccines. These immunizations (shots) help keep you and your children from getting certain dangerous vaccine-preventable-diseases. Without immunizations, you or your child could contract these diseases— some of which do not have a cure.

Who is at the most risk for vaccine-preventable diseases?
Infants, young children, those who are sick and the elderly are at the highest risk for these diseases. Immunizations help build up you or your child’s immune system to become stronger to fight off these diseases. Each time you or your child receives an immunization, the immune system strengthens in order to quickly fight off the vaccine-preventable-diseases you are immunized against.

What vaccines are recommended for me or my child?
For the most current list of vaccines recommended for infants, teens and adults, visit the immunization schedule page.

How can you be exposed to a vaccine-preventable-disease?
In the United States, many vaccine-preventable-diseases are very uncommon or even considered eliminated. In other parts of the world, many vaccine-preventable diseases are still very common. Often, people begin to experience symptoms of a disease after they have already exposed others, meaning they could have unintentionally brought a vaccine-preventable-disease back from a recent trip. Think about the places you go every day. How many door handles do you touch? How often do you sit in a doctor’s office waiting room? How many people are in line with you at the grocery store? You or your baby could come in contact with someone who is unknowingly a disease carrier at anytime, without even traveling to another country.

What is “community immunity”?
When you and your children are up to date on all recommended immunizations, you are giving your family the best protection against these diseases. Being immunized can also help to protect those around you. When more people are immunized, there is less of a chance for disease to spread because there is less disease to be spread. Community Immunity is when the vaccinated community helps protect those who are unvaccinated, especially to those who may be too young to get immunized against certain diseases.

What happens when me or my child gets vaccinated?
Federal law requires a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) be provided to vaccine recipients, their parents or legal representative prior to the vaccine dose being given. A VIS is an informational handout created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that explains the benefits and risks of each vaccine you are receiving. It also list common side effects (if any) and dosing information.

In addition to keeping informed, you can help your child with comfort measures before, during, and after shots.

How do I keep track of my child’s immunizations?
The California Immunization Record (sometimes called the “yellow card”) helps you keep track of what shots your child has received and when. Keep it safe, and keep it up-to-date. Bring it with you when you take your children in for shots. If you can’t find your child’s record card, ask your doctor’s office for a copy. Many California medical offices and clinics can now update your child’s yellow card automatically using an electronic immunization registry.

Where are immunizations offered?
Children: Pediatricians and family doctors or their nurses or medical assistants can give your children the shots they need to keep them healthy and meet the requirements for school enrollment. Hospitals may give babies some shots at birth and can also give tetanus shots to kids and adults at the emergency room if necessary. Some large chain pharmacies offer immunizations for older children (but not for infants). If your child doesn’t have a regular doctor, you can go to a community clinic or contact your local health department to learn about where to go for shots.

Adults: Your primary care doctor, nurse or a medical assistant can administer immunizations to adults. Some large chain pharmacies offer immunizations for and adults. If you do not have a regular doctor, you can go to a community clinic or contact your local health department to learn about where to go for shots.

What costs are associated with immunizations?
The cost for each vaccine can vary depending on the age of the recipient, insurance coverage and setting where the shot is being given:

Children with health insurance: By law, California managed care organizations (such as Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross) must cover recommended immunizations for children. Your health plan may charge a copayment for the shot visit. Check with your health plan or your doctor’s office to ask about any fees.

Children without health insurance: If your child does not have health insurance, he/she may be able to get free immunizations through one of these programs:

  • Healthy Families: Children enrolled in California’s Healthy Families plan receive free immunizations with no copayment.
  • Medi-Cal: Medi-Cal covers preventive care services for eligible low-income children and adults. Contact your local County Social Services for more information.
  • Vaccines for Children: Many private-practice California doctors participate in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which gives free vaccine to eligible children up to age 18. Ask your child's doctor if they offer VFC shots or check the VFC locator to find your provider.
  • CHDP: Children eligible for California’s Child Health and Disability Prevention (CHDP) program may also be eligible for free or low-cost shots.

Adults with health insurance: Check with your provider for individual vaccine costs.

Adults without health insurance: Contact your local health department for a list of community clinics and costs.

As parents, we can’t be near our children every minute. Immunizing your child is one thing you can do to protect their health for the years to come.