Vaccination FAQs

  • Medical Author:

    Dr. Eddie Hooker is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Louisville and at Wright State University. His areas of expertise include emergency medicine, epidemiology, health-services management, and public health.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Who should not receive a vaccine?

There are two types of contraindications (reasons not to give a vaccine): permanent and temporary.

  • The following are permanent contraindications to vaccination:
    • severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component (animal proteins [eggs], antibiotic, stabilizer, or preservative) or following a previous dose of the vaccine;
    • encephalopathy within seven days of a pertussis vaccination (not from another identifiable cause). This reaction is very rare since the introduction of acellular pertussis vaccine.
  • The following are precautions/temporary contraindications to vaccination:
    • Pregnancy: Although the risk of vaccination during pregnancy is mostly theoretical, caution is advised. Therefore, women who are known to be pregnant should not receive any of the live vaccines (Table 2). Inactivated vaccines are considered generally safe during pregnancy and should be used when indicated (Table 3). See the CDC for a complete listing of approved vaccines during pregnancy.
    • Immunosuppression: People with active cancer, leukemia, or lymphoma (or people taking high doses of steroids) should not receive live vaccines but can receive inactivated vaccines.
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): Vaccination depends on the severity of the illness. In asymptomatic (without symptoms) individuals, many vaccines are considered safe. In general, the inactivated vaccines are safe for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals infected with HIV.
    • Moderate to severe illness: If someone is ill with more than a simple cold, earache, diarrhea, or other minor illness, vaccination should be postponed until the illness is over.

What vaccines can women receive while pregnant?

Women who are pregnant should not receive the MMR, oral typhoid yellow fever, varicella, or zoster vaccines. These vaccines are made from live attenuated viruses and potentially could cause a problem. Pregnant women may receive tetanus and influenza vaccines as needed. It is safe to receive hepatitis A & B, meningococcal, and pneumococcal vaccines.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2015

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