January 26, 2022 by Dr Kathryn Hackman

How to answer when your child asks “But WHY do I need it?”

After you’ve explained to your child that they will be having a vaccine and prepared them for the experience (see my blog: How to reduce your child’s vaccination anxiety), they may ask… “but WHY do I need it?”

Here is my guide for an honest, medically accurate answer, when this question is posed by a 2-7 year old.  

There are two overarching reasons that you, as a parent or carer, need to be clear on. 

  • Firstly, vaccinations prevent disease*. Having a vaccine against a disease will prevent your child from becoming sick if they are exposed to that disease, whether it be a virus or bacteria. 
  • Secondly, vaccinations stop the spread of disease. When your child is vaccinated, they will be far less likely pass on the disease to other people. 

So, here is how I have answered the WHY question from my children, from about age 4. Note: I use the word “germ” to cover both viral and bacterial nasties. It’s fine to be more specific later, or when the word virus is in common use, like “coronavirus”.

This vaccine stops you from getting sick if you catch the germ. It’s like a special superpower. Even if these germs are all around, once you’ve had the virus, the germs can’t hurt you. So, you are having this vaccine so that even if you have the germ, you won’t get sick”

For older kids (around age 6), I also add: 

“By having a vaccine, you stay healthy, even if the germs are around, AND you are less likely to spread those germs to other people. So, you are keeping yourself safe, and you are keeping everyone around you safe too.”

Now, get ready for your child’s follow up question: “How do vaccinations work?” 

*If you’d like a refresher on which vaccines are still in use and which diseases they prevent, the CDC has a great overview here 

AboutDr Kathryn Hackman
Founder of the Courageous Kids children's storybook app, is a practicing clinician and loving mother of two beautiful boys.

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