Many diseases that used to injure, disfigure, or kill thousands children and adults each year can now be avoided in thanks to vaccines.
Vaccinations are important public health tools used to combat once-common diseases like measles, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. Many of these diseases are transmitted through the air or direct contact. This makes them easily transferred among non-vaccinated people.
The latest vaccination guidelines for children and teens from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begin at birth with a single dose to prevent against hepatitis B. Most children should be immunized with 14 different vaccinations by the age of 18.
You should also consult your school district’s immunization requirements in order to ensure that your child is up to date.
Not all children are healthy enough to have all the vaccines. Ask your doctor if your child has any conditions that would make some vaccines unsafe.
The current vaccination schedule calls for the following vaccinations for children under the age of 18 months at the following times.
Hep B: guards against hepatitis B, an infection spread through blood and body fluids that can result in liver failure and liver cancer.
RV: guards against the rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
DTaP: immunizes against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis), diseases that can affect the respiratory system and lead to death.
Hib: protects against the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae type B. This one bacteria can cause a variety of severe illnesses, including meningitis, pneumonia, and the severe throat infection epiglottis.
PCV13: vaccinates against the 13 different strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that can cause the most severe illnesses in children. These illnesses include pneumonia, blood infections, meningitis, and even death.
IPV: guards against polio by introducing an inactivated form of the polio virus. Polio once caused severe illness and sometimes paralysis in thousands of people.
Second doses of vaccines received at 2 months.
Second dose of Hep B and third dose of RV, DTaP, Hib, PCV13, and IPV should be given at 6 months. This is also when a child can begin their annual flu vaccination if they are healthy enough to receive one.
MMR: vaccinates against measles, mumps, and rubella. These three viruses can cause:
- brain damage
Varicella: vaccinates against chickenpox. It can be combined with the MMR vaccine, known as MMRV.
Hep A: guards against hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is an infection that can cause liver failure, joint pain, and disorders of the kidneys, pancreas, and blood. It also comes in a form combined with the Hep B vaccine. The combination is only recommended for adults.
A second annual flu shot can be given between 12 and 18 months or whenever your child’s doctor recommends. Children can also receive fourth doses of Hib and PCV. A third dose of IPV can be administered anytime between 6 and 18 months.
Children ages 19 months to 3 years should receive their second dose of Hep A.
During this time children should also receive:
- a second dose of MMR and Varicella between 4 and 6 years.
- a flu shot each year
Children of school age are required to be up to date on their shots. This time period is often where children have to catch up on missed vaccinations.
Between the ages of 7 to 10 years, children should have already received, or be receiving second dose vaccines for:
- tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap)
- meningococcal disease (MCV4)
- hepatitis B (HepB)
- polio (IPV)
- measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- chicken pox (varicella)
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices states that children with certain health conditions that put them at high risk for serious illnesses and diseases should also consider getting the following vaccines.
Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13): routine use should be done for children with compromised immune systems, asplenia (compromised spleen), cerebrospinal fluid leaks, or cochlear implants, if they have not previously received the vaccination.
Hepatitis A (Hep A): children living in communities with high hepatitis A outbreaks are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Others include those who visit developing countries, attend child care centers with poor hygiene, and who attended a school with an outbreak.
Children ages 11 to 12 should also receive the following vaccinations, according to the CDC:
- HPV (Gardasil): the human papillomavirus is often harmless, but can lead to several types of cancer. This involves three doses of the vaccine.
- MCV4: guards against meningococcal bacteria, which causes meningitis and bloodstream infections.
- TDaP (if they haven’t received one earlier)
Children ages 13-18 should be up to date on all of the above vaccinations, but should also receive a MCV4 booster at age 16.
Children of all ages over 6 months should also receive an annual flu shot, unless there are specific circumstances that makes this not feasible.
Consult the U.S. government’s vaccines.gov for updates on vaccination schedules and what other vaccines may be necessary.