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.

How do vaccines work?
Vaccines use dead or damaged disease germs to cause an immune response in your body, without getting you sick. Your body begins building antibodies which work like tiny soldiers trained to fight off specific diseases. Antibodies remain in your bloodstream, and if you ever come in contact with the disease — even after many years — they will come to your defense before the disease germs have a chance to make you sick. This is called immunity. It is why most people get dis¬eases like measles or chickenpox only once, even though they might be exposed many times during their lifetime.

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

Are vaccine-preventable diseases really a threat in the U.S.?
Yes. In the United States, many vaccine-preventable-diseases are rare or even considered eliminated. However, in other parts of the world, many vaccine-preventable diseases are still very common. It takes just one unimmunized traveler to bring a disease home. Think about the places you go to every day that many people may also visit, like your child’s school, the mall, grocery store, or a movie theater. Your family could come in contact with someone who is sick, 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 protect those around you. When more people are immunized, there is less of a chance for a disease to spread. Community immunity is when the vaccinated community helps protect those who are unvaccinated, including babies too young to get immunized against certain diseases or those who cannot get immunized because of certain medical conditions, like cancer.

What information can I expect to receive when I vaccinate my family?
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 lists common side effects you may expect and dosing information.

How can I comfort my child during shots?
Please take a look at these comfort measures that can help soothe your child 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 keep track of what shots your child has received and when. Keep it in a safe place. Remember to bring it each time you take your children in for shots, so it stays up-to-date. If you can’t find your child’s yellow card, ask your doctor’s office for a new copy. Many California medical offices and clinics can now update and print your child’s yellow card using California’s Immunization Registry.

My child has health insurance. Where can my child get immunized?
Getting your child vaccinated can be easy and inexpensive. For families with health insurance, all or most of the cost of vaccines is usually covered under current state or federal laws. Pediatricians or family doctors' offices can give your children the shots they need to stay healthy and meet the requirements for starting child care or school. As insurance may vary, ask your health plan or your doctor's office if there are any fees for vaccination.

Local pharmacies often offer immunizations for older children and adults (but not for infants). Check with the pharmacy and your insurance company about the cost.

My child doesn't have health insurance. Where can my child get immunized?
If you do not have health insurance, find out if your child is eligible for Medi-Cal. Contact your local County Social Services Office for some information. Some local health departments also give free or low-cost vaccines or may have information about other providers in your community. Community health centers may also offer immunizations for free or lower cost, depending on your income. Contact the clinic for more information.

Local pharmacies also offer immunizations for older children and adults (but not for infants), but the cost is typically higher than the locations mentioned above. Check with the pharmacy about the cost.