Preventing disease requires on-time vaccination for your entire family, especially for children. With that in mind, childhood vaccine schedules are developed with great care to ensure that your children are protected from diseases when they are most vulnerable and when their bodies are best able to build immune responses to the different vaccines.
The immunizations you and your family members need may vary based on several factors, including age, where you live, and where you travel. However, the vast majority of children are best protected by following the CDC-AAP-AAFP’s Recommended Childhood Immunization Schedule. Below you will find the vaccines your child is recommended to receive at his or her well-child visits, listed according to the age he or she would receive the first dose.
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Hepatitis B vaccine
The hepatitis B virus can be spread through contact with blood, saliva, body tissues, or the fluids of an infected person. Many people who contract hepatitis B never discover the source of their infection. Infants are at special risk because if they become infected at birth, 90% of them will develop a life-long hepatitis B infection and 25% of those will develop liver cancer or liver failure later in life. Hepatitis B infections can also occur through household contact, usually with relatives. Three thousand people die annually from complications of hepatitis B.
Reactions to the vaccine, if any, tend to be mild, such as soreness at the injection site or slight fever.
Note: Hepatitis B vaccine is given again at 2 and 6 months.
More Information: Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (VEC-CHOP), Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
2 Months, 4 Months, and 6 Months
Rotaviral gastroenteritis is an illness marked by vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Once ill, infants, in particular, can quickly become dehydrated. Rotavirus is spread from person to person, regardless of the hygienic condition of the environment. Before the vaccine was added to the childhood immunization schedule, up to 70,000 children were hospitalized annually in the U.S. due to rotavirus.
This vaccine, which is given by mouth, is notable for its extremely low incidence of side effects, which, if they occur, are very mild, and can include fever and diarrhea.
DTaP vaccine protects children from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Tetanus is contracted when Clostridium tetani enters the body through a cut or puncture wound, and can cause severe illness. Pertussis and diphtheria are both spread through respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing).
All three diseases were significant causes of death before these vaccines were introduced. Pertussis, a particularly awful disease in babies, used to cause 8,000 deaths a year in the U.S., primarily in infants. While diphtheria and tetanus cases have been kept at bay through vaccination, pertussis outbreaks still occur in the U.S., and are on the rise. Side effects of the vaccine may include fever, fussiness, and soreness at the injection site.
Haemophilus influenzae type b is a bacterial infection often spread through coughing or from contact with an infected person’s saliva. It can lead to severe infections of the brain, throat, and blood. Hib infection of the brain (meningitis) is an extremely serious illness that is fatal in 5% of patients and causes brain damage in 10% to 30% of survivors.
Hib vaccine can cause soreness at the injection site, but is not associated with serious side effects.
An infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, blood infections, meningitis, and death. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death worldwide in children. Prior to the use of this vaccine, pneumococcal disease was a serious problem in children under five years of age. Each year, it caused caused 5 million ear infections, 13,000 blood infections, 700 cases of meningitis, and 200 deaths in the U.S.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine can cause soreness at the injection site and low-grade fever, but is not associated with serious side effects.
Polio virus can spread to the nervous system and cause temporary or permanent paralysis. While polio was eliminated from the U.S. in 1979, it is still endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria, and is only a plane ride away. The world is trying to eradicate polio for good, and vaccinating your child is a crucial way to help attain this goal.
Polio vaccine may cause soreness at the injection site, but is not associated with serious side effects.
MMR (Measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine
Before MMR vaccine was licensed, measles was an illness that virtually all children contracted. Prior to the vaccine’s introduction, 3-4 million children were infected with measles and 100,000 were hospitalized annually in the U.S. In the ten years before the vaccine was licensed, an average of approximately 500 children died from measles each year in the U.S. While measles is no longer endemic in the U.S., outbreaks caused by unvaccinated people bringing the disease back from other countries continue to occur.
Mumps was a major cause of deafness in the U.S. before the vaccine was licensed in 1967. It can also lead to male infertility.
Rubella usually causes a mild rash illness; however, if a woman contracts rubella in the early stages of pregnancy, it can cause fetal death or severe birth defects. In the last congenital rubella epidemic (1964-1965) before the vaccine was introduced, the disease caused 2,100 neonatal deaths and birth defects in 20,000 newborn babies in the U.S.
MMR vaccine can cause a mild rash or fever. Rarely, children who develop a fever may have a febrile seizure, which does not lead to later seizure disorders. Although a now discredited British physician accused the MMR vaccine of causing autism, his study has been deemed fraudulent and extensive studies have fully absolved the vaccine. MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
Varicella (chickenpox) can be a serious disease, even for healthy children. In some people, varicella can lead to life-threatening bacterial infections of the skin, viral or bacterial pneumonia, and central nervous system complications including brain infections. When contracted during pregnancy, varicella can lead to birth defects. Before the vaccine was available, approximately 100 people died each year in the U.S. due to complications from chickenpox. Varicella virus can remain dormant and reappear later as herpes zoster (shingles), a painful disease that typically strikes older adults.
Side effects of the varicella vaccine are usually mild, and can include fever or a slight rash.
Hepatitis A infection, which can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes, often comes from food handled or prepared by an infected person. The virus can be spread through contaminated food or water, or just by living with an infected person. U.S. travellers to all but four countries and Western Europe are at high risk for exposure and should be vaccinated. Illness from hepatitis A can last up to a month, and 20% of those sickened need to be hospitalized.
Hepatitis A vaccine can cause soreness at the injection site, and is not associated with serious side effects. A second dose is needed at least 6 months after the first dose.
HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccine
HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer, as well as a significant cause of throat, anal, and penile cancers. Eleven thousand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the U.S., and 4,000 die. There are also 8,000 HPV-associated cases of cancer in boys and men each year in the U.S. The HPV vaccine can prevent these cancers, and is recommended for boys as well as girls.
The HPV vaccine can cause mild side effects such as fever and soreness or swelling at the injection site. Fainting can sometimes occur, mostly in teenagers. The vaccine is not associated with serious side effects. HPV vaccine is given in a three-dose series, which should be completed for best protection.
When the bacterium Neisseria meningitis infects and causes blood or brain infections (sepsis or meningitis), a person can die within 12 hours of showing symptoms. Adolescents and young adults living in college dormitories or in military housing are particularly at risk for contracting meningococcal meningitis, and 1 out of 7 people who contract it will die.
The most common side effect of MCV4 vaccine is soreness at the injection site. Fainting can sometimes occur, mostly in teenagers. Serious side effects are extremely rare. Teenagers need a follow-up booster of MCV4 at age 16.
Tdap vaccine is the adolescent and adult formulation of the DTaP vaccine that children receive in infancy, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Each year in the U.S., thousands of people die from influenza and its complications, including healthy children and adults. Everyone age 6 months and older is recommended to receive influenza vaccine yearly. The first year a child under 9 years old receives influenza vaccine, he or she needs a second dose one month later.
Influenza vaccine is given as either an injection or nasal spray. Side effects from influenza vaccine can include low-grade fever and soreness at the injection site. Influenza vaccine does not cause the flu.