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Combination vaccines

One great part about visiting the doctor when you’re little? Getting stickers! One of the ickier parts? Getting shots. But in a child’s first year of life and then on through their first several years, a lot of routine physicals do involve getting a shot. These immunizations are incredibly important because they help children gain immunity to—in other words, to become protection from—serious disease. Thankfully, combination vaccines mean fewer shots and fewer tears.

What are combination vaccines?

Combination vaccines are essentially a bundled set of immunizations. It means that two or more vaccines that could be administered separately have been put into one shot. A child who receives a combination vaccine will then develop immunity and be protected from diseases in the same way that they would be if the shots were administered separately.

Some examples of common combination vaccines that are given in childhood (and the diseases they protect against) include:

  • DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis) + HepB (Hepatitis B) + IPV (Inactivated polio virus)
  • DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis) + Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) + IPV (Inactivated polio virus)
  • DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis) + IPV (Inactivated polio virus)
  • MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) + Var (Varicella or Chicken Pox)

It’s worth noting that the DTaP and MMR vaccines listed above are each one vaccine that protects against multiple diseases. The DTaP vaccine protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis, and the MMR vaccine protects against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. But because you can’t get individual vaccines for any of these individual diseases in the U.S., they aren’t actually considered combination vaccines. They are, however, similarly great in the way that they allow for protection against multiple diseases in a single vaccine.

What are the benefits?

Because combination vaccines allow for more than one vaccine to be administered in a single shot, that means you can get a lot of protection from serious disease in a single shot. The simplicity and ease of fewer shots also often means that many children are that much more likely to stick with the recommended vaccination schedule, which allows children to be protected as early as possible from disease. Another major benefit for little ones? Combination shots amount to fewer shots, fewer ouchies, and fewer tears.

Are there any side effects?

Combination vaccines are safe. They go through the same thorough testing process that individual vaccines do to ensure that they are safe. And the recommended vaccine schedule for infants and children takes into account when it’s safe for certain vaccines to be administered separately and in combination. So if Baby is receiving either individual or combination vaccines on the recommended timeline, you can rest assured that those vaccines have been vetted.

Any side effects a child experiences from combination vaccines will likely be mild and similar to what they might experience with individual vaccines. Combination vaccines might cause a bit more soreness or swelling at the shot site, but the plus side is that a child will be dealing with just a single shot site and not multiple shot sites if multiple individual vaccine shots were given.

Fewer shots, more stickers

Fewer shots—and fewer tears—are typically appreciated by both kids and parents. Combination vaccines are a great tool to help Baby stay protected against serious disease, while also allowing healthcare provider visits to go just a little more smoothly. And extra stickers always seems to help too! But if you have any questions about immunizations or combination vaccines, be sure to ask your child’s health care provider.

  • “Are Combination Vaccines Safe?” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, April 20 2015. Retrieved February 12 2020. https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/video/are-combination-vaccines-safe
  • “Combination Vaccines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. August 1 2019. Retrieved February 12 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/why-vaccinate/combination-vaccines.html

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