As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to protect your child and keep them safe and healthy. Vaccines are an important way to do that.
For newborns, breast milk can help protect against many diseases. It contains antibodies passed from the mother. However, this immunity wears off within a year, and many children aren’t breastfed to begin with. In both cases, vaccines can help protect babies and small children from disease. They can also help prevent the spread of disease to older children and adults.
Vaccines imitate infection of a certain disease in your body. This prompts your immune system to develop weapons called antibodies. These antibodies fight the disease that the vaccine is meant to prevent. With them in place, your body can defeat any future infection with the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decides which vaccines should be given to people in the United States. They recommend that several vaccines be given during childhood. Read on to learn more about their recommendations.
Vaccinations are not all given right after a baby is born. Each is given on a different timeline. They’re mostly spaced throughout the first 24 months of a child’s life, and many are given in several stages or doses. Don’t worry, though — you don’t have to remember the vaccination schedule all by yourself. Your child’s doctor will guide you through the process.
An outline of the recommended vaccination timeline is shown here. For a description of each vaccine, see the following section.
|Birth||2 months||4 months||6 months||1 year||15–18 months||4–6 years|
|HepB||1st dose||2nd dose (age 1–2 months)||—||3rd dose (age 6–18 months)||—||—||—|
|RV||—||1st dose||2nd dose||3rd dose (in some cases)||—||—||—|
|DTaP||—||1st dose||2nd dose||3rd dose||—||4th dose||5th dose|
|Hib||—||1st dose||2nd dose||3rd dose (in some cases)||Booster dose (age 12–15 months)||—||—|
|PCV||—||1st dose||2nd dose||3rd dose||4th dose (age 12–15 months)||—||—|
|IPV||—||1st dose||2nd dose||3rd dose (age 6–18 months)||—||—||4th dose|
|Influenza||—||—||—||Yearly vaccination (seasonally as appropriate)||Yearly vaccination (seasonally as appropriate)||Yearly vaccination (seasonally as appropriate)||Yearly vaccination (seasonally as appropriate)|
|MMR||—||—||—||—||1st dose (age 12–15 months)||—||2nd dose|
|Varicella||—||—||—||—||1st dose (age 12–15 months)||—||2nd dose|
|HepA||—||—||—||—||2 dose series (age 12–24 months)||—||—|
This table is a basic outline of the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule. For more details, visit the CDC website or talk to your child’s doctor.
Here are the essentials to know about each of these vaccines.
- HepB protects against hepatitis B (infection of the liver). HepB is given in three shots. The first shot is given at the time of birth. Most states require HepB vaccination for a child to enter school.
- RV protects against rotavirus, a major cause of diarrhea. RV is given in two or three doses, depending on the vaccine used.
- DTaP protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). It requires five doses during infancy and childhood. DTaP boosters are then given during adolescence and adulthood.
- Hib protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b. This infection used to be a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Hib vaccination is given in four doses.
- PCV protects against pneumococcal disease. PCV is given in a series of four doses.
- IPV protects against polio and is given in four doses.
- Influenza (flu) protects against the flu. This is a seasonal vaccine that is given yearly. Flu shots can be given to your child each year, starting at age 6 months. Flu season can run from September through May.
- MMR protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles). MMR is given in two doses. The first dose is recommended for infants between 12 and 15 months. The second dose is usually given between ages 4 and 6 years. However, it can be given as soon as 28 days after the first dose.
- Varicella protects against chickenpox. Varicella is recommended for all healthy children. It’s given in two doses.
- HepA protects against hepatitis A.
Talk with your doctor
Vaccines are an important part of keeping your child safe and healthy. If you have questions about vaccines, be sure to ask your child’s doctor. Your questions might include:
- How can I help relieve any vaccine side effects for my child?
- Are there any risks to using these vaccines?
A friend of mine says that vaccines are dangerous for children. Should I be concerned?
In a word, no. Vaccines have been shown to be safe for children. And it has been proved that vaccines do not cause autism. The CDC points to research that refutes any link between vaccines and autism.
In addition to being safe to use, vaccines have been shown to protect children from some very serious diseases. People used to get very sick or die from all of the diseases that vaccines now help prevent. In fact, even chickenpox can be deadly. Thanks to vaccines, however, these diseases are rare in the United States today.
Vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as redness and swelling where the injection was given. These effects should go away within a few days. Serious side effects, such as a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The risks from the disease are much greater than the risk of serious side effects from the vaccine. For more information about the safety of vaccines for children, ask your child’s doctor.Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.