By Meron Tesfai

August is national immunization awareness month. It highlights the importance of immunization and increases public awareness that many diseases are effectively and safely controlled by vaccines. Illnesses that used to be common in the United States like measles are at record low levels because of widespread vaccination. There are many reasons to immunize; immunizations save lives, protect communities, and save your family time and money. Vaccines used in the United States are safe and effective.

In other parts of the world, infections once thought to be almost gone have come back due to low immunization rates. Travelers to these areas who are not vaccinated can get these infections and bring them home. Adults also need vaccinations to stay healthy and to protect those around them.

Common Questions about Vaccines:

Are immunizations safe?

Yes.  All vaccines are tested before they are approved for use by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

What happens if we stopped vaccinating?

Diseases that are almost unknown in our time would stage a comeback.  We would see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today.  More children would get sick and more would die.  Diseases would spread to others and soon we would undo the progress we made over the years.

Don’t vaccines cause harmful side effects and illness?

Some children and adults may experience minor side effects from being vaccinated, such as fever or swelling at the injection site. More serious side effects from vaccination are very rare, and there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Should I wait to vaccinate?

Children under 5 years of age are especially vulnerable to disease because their immune systems have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infection. By immunizing on time, you can protect your child from disease and also protect others at school or daycare. Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor.

Where can I go to get more information about vaccines?

You can go to or email infectiousdiseases at bphc dot org.  You can also learn more about vaccines from the CDC.

For Parents:

  1. Make sure your child is up-to-date on all recommended vaccines. To find out which immunizations your child needs, visit CDC’s childhood scheduler online here.
  2. Get an immunization card or record, and bring it to every doctor’s visit.
  3. At every doctor’s visit, ask if your child needs vaccinations. Click here for a vaccination schedule.
  4. Talk with your child’s doctor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  5. For information on infectious diseases, visit the Boston Public Health Commission website.
  6. Boston residents who need help finding a doctor / provider or need help getting health insurance coverage can call the Mayor’s Health Line for assistance; the multi-lingual services can be reached at 617-534-5050 and are available Monday through Friday during the day.

For Adults:

Immunization is not just for kids, adults have specific immunization needs as well.  Fully immunized adults protect children who have not completed the full series of childhood immunizations.

  • Watch a short, fun video that highlights the need for adults to get vaccinated against serious diseases.
  • Adolescent and adult vaccine quiz:  What vaccines do you need, take the quiz here!
  • The Adult Immunization scheduler tool, once downloaded, can be used to determine the vaccines you need according to the Adult Immunization Schedule.

If you or your children are in need of immunizations, we encourage you to call your physician and make an appointment. If you would like more information please call the Boston Public Health Commission at 617-534-5611 or go to

Meron Tesfai is a project manager in the Infectious Disease Bureau’s Education and Outreach Office.