Frequently Asked Questions

About Vaccines 

With so much information available online, many people have questions about vaccines. Unfortunately, not everything you read about vaccines is true. It is important to get science-based information to answer any questions you have about vaccines to make sure you’re getting the correct information.


We’ve included accurate and science-based answers to some of the most commonly asked vaccine questions here. We encourage you to look at other sites to find more information, but make sure they are reliable and the information is accurate. Here is a list of trusted sources for vaccine information.

Why Vaccinate?

The first thing you need to know is that vaccines are safe and have helped eliminate deadly diseases like smallpox. They have also helped reduce the number of cases of some serious diseases so much that we hardly even think about them anymore, like polio or measles. It’s hard to imagine that diseases like these were widespread in the United States, but they caused thousands of deaths a year and left some people with serious and lifelong health conditions or disabilities. There are now vaccines for 17 diseases through an individual’s lifespan. Making sure these vaccine-preventable diseases don’t affect you or your loved ones is an important reason to get vaccinated. It’s also important to protect the health of your community. The more people in a community that are vaccinated, the less chances there are of vaccine-preventable diseases spreading. This is so important because there are some people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. When you and your loved ones get vaccinated, you are protecting those who cannot from the spread of 17 vaccine-preventable diseases.

How Do Vaccines Work?

Simply put, vaccines help your body build immunity to dangerous diseases. Immunity is when your body has built something called an antibody. Antibodies help fight off germs that cause harm. From the time we’re born, our bodies have immune systems that can fight most germs. As we grow, we’re exposed to more germs and our bodies build antibodies to help fight diseases caused by germs, there are some deadly diseases that our bodies can’t handle. Vaccines help you build immunity to these serious diseases without getting sick first. Vaccines contain very small amounts of the germs that cause these diseases that have been either weakened or killed. Your body reacts to them by building antibodies that will protect your body from the disease. This means that your body will know how to fight off the disease if you are ever exposed to it. Resources: How Vaccines Work - Immunization Action Coalition Making the Vaccine Decision: Addressing Common Concerns - The CDC

Are Vaccines Safe?

Yes. Vaccines must pass many tests before they are licensed to give to the public. There are so many tests a vaccine must pass that it often takes years to get a license. Once a vaccine is licensed, the Federal Food & Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies closely monitor it for any potential safety concerns. Resource: Vaccine Safety Information Vaccine Basics - Safety Information

Are There Side Effects of Vaccines?

Just like any medication, vaccines do have some side effects. However, because of the extremely rigorous testing process, they are considered among the safest medications. For most, side effects are very minor, such as soreness where the shot was given or a low grade fever. There is a very small risk of a more severe reaction, but it is extremely rare. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about vaccinations. Resource: Vaccine Side Effects

When Do I Need to Get a Vaccine for Myself or My Child?

Virginia follows the CDC recommendations for child and adult vaccine schedules. Your doctor should let you know when you need to get vaccines, but we’ve included easy to read schedules for parents and adults for you to reference. We always recommend talking to your doctor when you or a loved one should get a vaccine!

Who Sets the Immunization Schedule?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publishes vaccination recommendations for children and adults in the United States. They are created by a group of medical and public health experts that regularly review data on newly licensed and existing vaccines called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) follows the ACIP recommendations for vaccines. In Virginia, it is required that children are vaccinated by this schedule to attend a public or private elementary, middle or secondary school, child care center, nursery school, family day care home or development center. Resource: Who Sets the Immunization Schedule? - CDC Immunization Practices - Virginia Department of Health School Requirements - Virginia Department of Health

What if I Miss a Dose of a Vaccine?

Many vaccines require multiple doses to help the body build up enough immunity to the disease to last a lifetime. In many cases your doctor can help you catch-up without starting over. Talk to your doctor about catching up.

Which Vaccines are Required for Schools in Virginia?

Virginia follows the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommended vaccine schedule for child and adolescent vaccines. More details and forms can be found on the Virginia Department of Health’s site, School Requirements, or call the Division of Immunizations at 1-800-568-1929 (in state only) or 804-864-8055.

What is a Combination Vaccine and is it Safe?

A combination vaccine combines vaccines for more than one disease into one shot. This means that your child can get one shot with multiple vaccines. As with all vaccines, combination vaccines are tested extensively to make sure they are safe to give at the same time.

Should I Wait to Get a Vaccine if My Child has a Cold or Fever?

Children can still get vaccinated when they have a mild illness like a cold or fever. As always, talk with your doctor if you have concerns.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

No. There have been dozens of studies conducted all over the world with millions of children that have found there is no connection between vaccines and autism. This myth came from one study published in 1998. It was soon discovered the author lied about his findings. The article was retracted and the lead author lost his license to practice medicine. There have been extensive and repeated studies on vaccine safety and none have found a link between autism and vaccines. Resource: The MMR Vaccine and Autism: Sensation, refutation, retractions, and fraud Vaccine Research - Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine and Autism Studies Evidence Shows Vaccines Unrelated to Autism

Where Can I Get Help Paying for Vaccines?

Most health insurance plans cover recommended vaccines for children and adults at no cost to you. If you don’t have health insurance, the Virginia Vaccines for Children and Virginia Vaccines for Adult programs can help. Providers that are enrolled in this program can offer vaccines at no cost. Local Health Departments are also great resources to help you find low or no cost vaccines. Additional Resource: How to Pay -

More Resources

Unless otherwise cited, the information on this page came from the credible and trusted sources listed below. Each of these sites has even more information and resources than what we’ve provided, so check them out! American Academy of Pediatrics - Healthy Children CDC - Vaccines for Children Immunization Action Coalition Vaccine Education Center Vaccinate Your Family Virginia Department of Health, Division of Immunizations