Making Educated Vaccination Decisions

Parent Tips
Updated April 08, 2024

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) serves as a public resource to assist families and individuals in vaccination decision-making. We hope the information you find on our website helpful in making an informed decision. NVIC encourages the public to continue to seek information and ask questions. Vaccination is not an easy subject and it is not an easy decision to make. Parents and individuals are in charge of these health decisions and ultimately are responsible for their outcomes and the health and well-being and you and your child - not your doctor or state or federal health officials. Below are tips and resource links to assist families and individuals in making educated and informed vaccination decisions.

Vaccination Tips & Resources

Vaccination is a medical procedure which carries the risk of injury and death. Parents and individuals hold the responsibility to become educated about the benefits and risks of vaccines in order to make the most informed, responsible vaccination decisions. Click on each topic below to learn more.

:  Seeking information and asking questions is not anti-vaccine, and is your human and informed consent right as you consider the medical risk-taking procedure of vaccination. You should not be coerced or forced by health care providers, public officials, schools or employers into a vaccination decision before you are comfortable with your decision.

Read information from a variety of vaccine information sources. Learn about how different diseases are contracted, how often complications and disease severity occurs, and how the disease is spread and use NVIC’s referenced information as a  starting point.

Gather similar information on vaccines, their complications, the severity of vaccine complications and how often complications occur. Without this information you cannot make an informed decision. Talk to trusted health professionals, and consider browsing through other vaccine information websites, many of which are linked directly from NVIC's website.

It is also advisable to read the vaccine manufacturer's product insert to become familiar with vaccine ingredients, vaccine safety, clinical trial results, and more. These inserts are available on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) website, which NVIC's links to on the Quick Facts webpage for each vaccine in our Vaccine & Disease webpages.

All vaccine providers are required by law to provide you with the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) on vaccine benefit/risks, before vaccination with a routinely recommended childhood vaccine.

Prior to the creation of the federally recommended adult vaccination schedule, consumer groups, including NVIC, worked with government health agencies to develop detailed information booklets on each routinely recommended childhood vaccine. However, the federal law governing vaccine risk/benefit informing was amended in the mid-1990s, resulting in less information appearing on the VIS. It is advisable to gather additional information outside of the VIS to fully understand the risks and benefits associated with diseases and vaccines. A good starting point is reading the vaccine's product insert produced by the vaccine manufacturer and NVIC's Vaccine and Disease webpages. You can find links to the ViS and product insert under each disease Quick Facts section. We encourage the public to read all the information on these webpages to more fully understand the disease and vaccine.

There are no informing requirements for vaccines such as shingles (Shingrix, Zostavax) and the pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax23), which are federally recommended for adults only.

Write down your personal and family medical history and list all major illnesses, diseases and medical conditions. It is especially important to include any previous reactions to vaccinations and to have them included the permanent medical record.

Previous severe reactions to a vaccination can potentially put one at a higher risk for even more severe reactions, if more vaccines are given. Additionally, ask your health care provider for a physical exam to make sure you or your child is healthy before you permit vaccination, because illness may also predispose individuals to vaccine reactions.

Before permitting vaccination, ask your health care provider if any of the above information you have provided, or a current illness, puts you or your child at risk for having a vaccine reaction. If you are unsatisfied with the answers you are given, get a second opinion.

All vaccine providers are required by federal law to record all vaccinations given in the individual's permanent medical record. Information that must be recorded includes the vaccine manufacturer's name, lot number and changes in health after vaccination. Ask for a copy of the health care provider's record on vaccinations given to you or your child to keep for your records.

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Vaccine providers are required by federal law to report all adverse events, including injuries and deaths which occur within 30 days after vaccination to federal health authorities.

If you choose to vaccinate, monitor the vaccinated individual closely after vaccination. If you suspect a vaccine reaction, call your health care provider and seek medical attention. If your health care provider is not concerned and you are, consider going to an urgent care or emergency room to get medical attention.

Should your health care provider refuse to report a vaccine reaction to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system (VAERS), you may do so directly. You may also make a report to NVIC's independent vaccine reaction registry started in 1982. To learn more about these reporting options, or to search the VAERS database for reactions as you consider vacination, visit NVIC's Reporting Systems webpage. NVIC also provides information on recognizing a vaccine reaction.

Like all pharmacuetical products, vaccines come with the risk for injury and death. If you or your child becomes vaccine injured, or dies as a result of a vaccine reaction, you may be entitled to compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

It is important to get immediate medical attention and diagnosis of vaccine injury, as there are deadlines to be met in order to be eligible for vaccine injury compensation. Many health care professionals are reluctant to discuss or diagnose injury, and receiving a vaccine injury diagnosis often means getting more than one medical opinion and seeking out specialists.

Learn more about compensation, filing a vaccine-injury claim, and access resources to aid in finding health care provider options on NVIC's website. 

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