Questions & Answers on Immunizations
The best way to protect our children is to protect all our children.
Why do we immunize our children?
- To protect them from disease, disability, and death. In the pre-vaccine era, diseases that are now vaccine-preventable were major causes of life-long disability as well as death.
- To save on healthcare costs, including out-of-pocket expenses by the family.
- To protect other children who are not immune if our children develop one of the vaccine-preventable diseases. This includes children for whom vaccines are not safe, who are too young to be immunized, in whom the vaccine did not work or who are not immunized for other reasons.
Why do we keep immunizing children when the diseases are gone?
- The reason we have so few cases in the U.S. is that our immunization levels are so high.
- All vaccine-preventable diseases (except smallpox) still occur in the rest of the world, at rates higher than in the U.S., and most still occur in the U.S. at low levels, especially in under-immunized populations.
- Any of these diseases can be reintroduced into any community in the U.S. at any time.
- Florida receives large numbers of visitors from all over the world.
How do vaccines protect children who have not been immunized?
- If almost all children in a population are immune to a disease, a child who does develop the disease will be surrounded by immune children, and the spread of infection will stop.
- With slightly lower immunization rates, the outbreak may not stop by itself, but public health prevention activities such as isolating cases and giving antibiotics, vaccines, or immune globulin to contacts can stop the outbreak.
How effective are vaccines?
- Vaccines commonly used against vaccine-preventable diseases are all highly-effective, ranging from 85 percent to nearly 100 percent effective.
- Vaccines determined to be effective at preventing spread of disease in the population are used in the U.S. Before a vaccine is recommended for widespread use, a careful assessment is made by a national expert panel, based on the best available science. The panel assesses the seriousness of the disease, if it is preventable, the vaccine's effectiveness in preventing the disease and the frequency and consequences of adverse reactions to the vaccine. A vaccine is recommended for inclusion in the national immunization schedule when the benefit to the whole community of routine immunization with that vaccine is much greater than the risks.
Why do we require immunization for attendance in childcare facilities or schools?
- Most vaccine-preventable diseases spread easily where people gather together. Getting the immunization coverage rate close to 100 percent can stop outbreaks from spreading if the disease is introduced.
- High immunization coverage rates protect children who are not immune to the disease; including those children who have medical reasons they cannot receive the vaccine, those in whom the vaccine did not work, those with religious exemptions to immunizations, and those too young to have received certain vaccines.
Is it fair to require children to be immunized to attend childcare facilities or schools?
- High immunization coverage rates protect both the immunized children and the few who are not immune from disease.
- Childcare and school immunization laws have shown to be an effective way to achieve and maintain high immunization coverage levels.
- In effect, society has made an agreement: I agree to immunize my child if you agree to immunize yours. All children benefit from their own protection against serious diseases, and also from being surrounded by immune children.
- All children benefit from the vaccines, including the doses they have received themselves and the ones other children have received, but only a few develop severe side effects. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is in place to compensate injured children and their families.
Why do we have religious exemptions to immunization requirements?
- Religious exemptions strike a balance among respect for the genuine religious convictions of families, the desire for all children to have access to public schools and the desire to protect all residents of our communities from infectious diseases.
- As long as the proportion of children in a school who receive religious exemptions is very low, it is still possible to attain high overall immunization coverage levels and protect all children in the school.
- If there are cases of a vaccine-preventable disease in a childcare facility or school, all unimmunized children will be excluded for the duration of the outbreak. Children with either medical or religious exemptions will be excluded. Taking this step reduces, but does not eliminate, the hazard to the other children of allowing some children to attend schools without being immunized.