Why is vaccination necessary?

Vaccines strengthen people's immune systems so their bodies can fight off serious infectious diseases. Vaccines also benefit society by preventing the spread of communicable diseases.

Why do pregnant women need to be vaccinated?

Many women might not realize they are not up-to-date on their immunizations and are susceptible to diseases that can harm them or their unborn child. Pregnant women should talk to their physicians to figure out which vaccines they might need and whether they should get them during pregnancy or wait until after their child is born.

How do I know if a vaccine's ingredients are safe?

All vaccines are tested for safety under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccines are checked for purity, potency, and safety, and the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor the safety of each vaccine for as long as it is in use. Some people might be allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine, such as eggs in the influenza vaccine, and should not receive the vaccine until they have talked to their doctors.

Can a vaccine harm my unborn child?

A number of vaccines, especially live-virus vaccines, should not be given to pregnant women because they might be harmful to the baby. (A live-virus vaccine is made using the live strains of a virus.) Some vaccines can be given to the mother in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, while others should only be administered either at least three months before or immediately after the baby is born.

What happens if I am exposed to a disease while I am pregnant?

Depending on the circumstances, your doctor will weigh the risks of vaccination against the benefits the vaccine can provide.

Which vaccines can I receive while I am pregnant?

The following vaccines are considered safe to give to women who might be at risk of infection:

  • Hepatitis B: Pregnant women who are at high risk for this disease and have tested negative for the virus can receive this vaccine. It is used to protect the mother and baby against infection both before and after delivery.
  • Influenza: This vaccine can prevent serious illness in the mother during pregnancy. You can receive the injectable vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. The nasal vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy because it is a live vaccine.
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis: This combination of vaccines is routinely recommended for pregnant women, both those who have never been immunized, and those who have not received a booster in the last 1 year. There has been a resurgence of pertussis (whooping cough) in the United States. This disease can cause serious hospitalization or death in young children, especially infants. Because of this, the CDC recommends that women are immunized against Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis with each pregnancy. The best time to get the vaccination is at the 5th month of pregnancy, which can help protect the newborn infant the best.

Which vaccines should pregnant women avoid?

Some of the following vaccines can potentially be transmitted to the unborn child and might result in miscarriage, premature birth, or birth defects. Others are not used because there is not enough experience with their long-term safety in pregnant women:

  • Hepatitis A: The safety of this vaccine hasn't been determined; therefore, it is not routinely recommended during pregnancy. Women at high risk for exposure to this virus should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctor.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): Women should wait at least one month to become pregnant after receiving these live-virus vaccines. If the initial rubella test shows you are rubella non-immune, then you will be given the vaccine after delivery. If needed, it is best to obtain this vaccination before a planned pregnancy, as developing diseases such as rubella during pregnancy can lead to the death or disability of the fetus.
  • Varicella: This vaccine, used to prevent chicken pox, should be given at least one month before pregnancy. If needed, it is best to obtain this vaccination before a planned pregnancy, as developing chicken pox during pregnancy can lead to severe disease, potentially harming both mom and baby.
  • Pneumococcal: Although there is no evidence that the pneumonia shot is harmful to a pregnant woman or her fetus, it is not recommended during pregnancy unless there is an indication for its use. This is recommended in those with chronic medical conditions, such lung, heart, or kidney diseases. Women who have underlying conditions known to put them at risk for pneumococcal disease should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant, if possible.
  • Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Neither the live-virus (OPV) nor the inactivated-virus (IPV) version of this vaccine is recommended for pregnant women. Also, the risk of getting polio in the United States is very low.

What side effects can I expect after a vaccination?

Side effects vary from none to those that can occur up to three weeks after vaccination. If you experience any severe side effects, be sure to tell your doctor.

  • Hepatitis A: Soreness and redness at injection site, headache, fatigue, severe allergic reaction in very rare cases
  • Hepatitis B: Soreness at injection site, fever
  • Influenza: Redness and swelling at injection site that can last up to two days, fever
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria: Low-grade fever, soreness and swelling at injection site
  • dTaP: Fever, soreness, and swelling at the injection site
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR): Non-contagious rash, swelling of neck glands and cheeks, pain and stiffness of joints one to two weeks after vaccination
  • Varicella: Fever, soreness or redness at injection site, rash or small bumps up to three weeks after vaccination
  • Pneumococcal: Fever, soreness at injection site
  • Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Redness, discomfort at injection site

What if I never had chicken pox?

If you have ever had chicken pox, you are immune. If you haven't, you may still be immune. A blood test can make this determination. If you are not immune and are exposed to active chicken pox, you need to call your doctor for advice.