Every parent wants their kids to be healthy, and setting up your baby for lifelong health begins with routine childhood vaccinations. It might not be fun for you (or your infant), but within their first few months, babies need to receive a number of vaccines, sometimes in multiple doses. These vaccines are administered at certain points to ensure maximum effectiveness and safety, so you should adhere to an infant immunization schedule to keep track of your baby's necessary vaccines from birth to 15 months.
This infant immunization schedule from Vaccines.gov provides general recommendations for when vaccines should be administered. But a great relationship with your child's pediatrician is really the best source for developing a course of action.
Birth to Two Months
- Hepatitis B (HepB): The only vaccine administered at birth and before two months of age is for hepatitis B. This is a virus that attacks the liver, causing symptoms such as abdominal and joint pain, jaundice, weakness, and fatigue. Between one and two months, your baby will receive a second dose of the vaccine.
At two months, your baby will receive several vaccines:
- Rotavirus (RV): The immunization for Rotavirus is one of several that is administered orally. The vaccine protects against gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu. This intestinal infection, which can cause intense vomiting, stomachaches, and diarrhea, is especially common among young children and babies.
- Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (DTaP) vaccine: DTaP is one of several combination immunizations that provides defense against multiple diseases with one shot. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat, and is passed from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Tetanus, or lockjaw disease, gets its name from the characteristic jaw locking that results from the bacterial infection. The disease may also cause severe muscle tightening, spasms, or cramps strong enough to break bones. Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is an extremely contagious bacterial respiratory tract infection spread from person to person. The disease may initially look similar to the common cold but is characterized by extreme coughing fits and difficulty breathing.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib: This vaccine prevents meningitis (inflammation) of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (lung infection), epiglottitis (throat infection), and other infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria.
- Pneumococcal (PCV13): As you might expect, pneumococcal bacteria cause pneumonia, as well as ear and sinus infections and meningitis.
- Inactivated poliovirus (IPV): Thanks to the polio vaccine, there has not been a documented case of naturally occurring polio in the U.S. in decades. The now rare disease is passed through person-to-person contact and can cause paralysis. Vaccination is still critical to ensure protection from those who are infected with the virus, which is why a booster shot is recommended before travel to affected countries. A booster shot will provide lifelong immunity from poliovirus.
At four months, your baby will receive second doses of the RV, DTaP, Hib, PCV13, and IPV vaccines.
Six to 15 Months
Between six and 15 months, your baby is scheduled to receive a third dose of HepB, a possible third dose of RV, a third (and possibly fourth) dose of Hib, a third dose of IPV, and two more doses of DTaP and PVC13. The following are vaccines that will be administered for the first time during this period:
- Inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV): Between six and 15 months, your baby will begin receiving annual inactivated influenza vaccines. Infants are especially susceptible to the illness and are at a high risk for complications, making regular immunization all the more important at this young age.
- Hepatitis A (HepA): At this point, your baby will begin a two-dose series of the hepatitis A vaccine. Both forms of hepatitis can cause liver disease.
- Measles/mumps/rubella (MMR vaccine: This combination vaccine is administered between six and nine months. Measles usually begins with a high fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and red, watery eyes. These symptoms are then followed by a rash that develops all over the body. Mumps begins with symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches, followed by the inflammation of the salivary glands, which causes the cheeks and jaw to swell. Complications can lead to swelling disorders in other parts of the body, including encephalitis (brain) inflammation) and meningitis. Mumps may also lead to temporary or permanent deafness. Rubella (German measles) is a generally mild infection that causes a slight fever and rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.
- Varicella (VAR): Varicella, more commonly known as chickenpox, is an itchy rash that covers the entire body.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: The meningococcal conjugate vaccine comes in several forms. The specific vaccine depends on age range. Routine vaccinations are only recommended for those with certain medical conditions or who are traveling to countries where there is a high risk of contracting the disease, which causes meningitis or, in another form, infects the bloodstream and damages blood vessels.
Though this infant immunization schedule may look overwhelming, these vaccinations will soon become a regular part of your baby's overall health and wellness plan. By adhering to these guidelines, you'll give your baby safe, effective protection that will last for years to come. And not only that, but by taking these steps to properly vaccinate your child, you're offering a protective halo to other children who can't be vaccinated due to allergies or compromised immune systems. That's the true definition of a win-win situation.