Diseases that vaccines prevent

Learn About Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Chickenpox (Varicella)
Chickenpox is a disease that causes an itchy rash of blisters and a fever. The rash can spread over the whole body—even inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. Chickenpox can be serious and even life-threatening, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. There’s no way to know who will have a mild case and who will become very sick. When your child gets his or her chickenpox shots, he or she is getting immunity from chickenpox without the risk of serious complications of the disease.

Diphtheria is a serious disease caused by a toxin (poison) made by bacteria. It causes a thick coating in the back of the nose or throat that makes it hard to breathe or swallow. It can be deadly. Children should receive the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine, adolescents and teenagers should receive a Tdap vaccine booster, and adults should get a Td vaccine booster every 10 years.

Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)
Hib disease is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type b. Babies and children younger than 5 years old are most at risk for Hib disease. It can cause lifelong disability and be deadly.

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Children with the virus often don’t have symptoms, but they often pass the disease to others, including their unvaccinated parents or caregivers. These individuals can get very sick.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. When a person is first infected with the virus, he or she can develop an "acute" (short-term) infection. Acute hepatitis B refers to the first 6 months after someone is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This infection can range from a very mild illness with few or no symptoms to a serious condition requiring hospitalization. Some people are able to fight the infection and clear the virus. For others, the infection remains and is "chronic," or lifelong. Chronic hepatitis B refers to the infection when it remains active instead of getting better after 6 months. Over time, the infection can cause serious health problems, and even liver cancer.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a very common virus that spreads between people when they have sexual contact with another person. HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause anal cancer, throat cancer, and genital warts in both men and women. The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. HPV vaccine also produces a higher immune response in preteens than in older adolescents.

Influenza (Flu)
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Measles is a serious respiratory disease (in the lungs and breathing tubes) that causes a rash and fever. It is very contagious. In rare cases, it can be deadly. Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called the MMR shot).

Meningococcal vaccines help protect against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. These infections don’t happen very often, but can be very dangerous when they do. The two most severe and common illnesses caused by these bacteria include infections of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord ( meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). Even if they get treatment, about 10 to 15 out of 100 people with meningococcal disease will die from it.

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. There is no treatment for mumps, and it can cause long-term health problems. In most children, mumps is pretty mild. But it can cause serious, long-lasting problems including: encephalitis (swelling of the brain), meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord), loss of hearing (temporary and permanent), orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty, oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty. In rare cases, mumps is deadly.

Pertusiss (Whooping Cough)
Whooping cough—or pertussis—is a very serious respiratory (in the lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. It causes violent coughing you can’t stop. Whooping cough is most harmful for young babies and can be deadly. Your baby can catch whooping cough from adults, grandparents, or older brothers or sisters who don’t know they have the disease. New moms with whooping cough can give it to their newborn babies. Children should receive the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine and adolescents and teenagers should receive a Tdap vaccine booster. Pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine booster during the third trimester of every pregnancy, and should encourage anyone who will be in contact with their baby to be up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccine.

Pneumococcal Disease
Pneumococcal disease is an illness caused by bacteria called pneumococcus. It is often mild but can cause serious symptoms, lifelong disability, or death. Children younger than 2 years of age are among those most at risk for the disease. There are more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The vaccine called PCV13 protects against the 13 types that cause most of the severe illness in children.

Polio (or poliomyelitis) is a disease caused by poliovirus. It can cause lifelong paralysis (can’t move parts of the body), and it can be deadly. In rare cases, poliovirus infection can be very serious. About 1 out of 100 people will have weakness or paralysis in their arms, legs, or both. This paralysis or weakness can last a lifetime. The best way to protect against polio is to get the polio vaccine. Doctors recommend that all children get the vaccine, also called IPV (or inactivated poliovirus).

Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. It affects mostly babies and young children. Diarrhea and vomiting can lead to serious dehydration (loss of body fluid). If dehydration is not treated, it can be deadly. Some children need an IV (needle in their vein) in the hospital to replace lost fluids. There are 2 brands of rotavirus vaccine: RotaTeq and Rotarix. They are both given by mouth, not by a shot.

Rubella, sometimes called “German measles,” is a disease caused by a virus. The infection is usually mild with fever and a rash. But, if a pregnant woman gets infected, the virus can cause serious birth defects. If she gets rubella, she can have a miscarriage, or her baby could be born with certain birth defects, like deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, and heart defects. The best way to protect against rubella is by getting the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called the MMR shot).

Shingles (Herpes zoster)
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, causes a painful, blistering skin rash that can last two to four weeks. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This pain is called postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. It is the most common complication of shingles. The risk of shingles and PHN increases as you get older.

Tetanus is a serious disease caused by a toxin (poison) made by bacteria. It causes painful muscle stiffness and can be deadly. Tetanus is often called “lockjaw” because the jaw muscles tighten, and the person cannot open his mouth. It can cause breathing problems, muscle spasms, and paralysis (unable to move parts of the body). Muscle spasms can be strong enough to break a child’s spine or other bones. Children should receive the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine, adolescents and teens should receive a Tdap vaccine booster, and adults should receive a Td vaccine booster every 10 years.

Content last updated: April 10, 2024

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.

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