As a parent, keeping up with all the appointments, milestones, and vaccines for your kids can sometimes feel overwhelming. Your pediatrician is a great resource who can help you keep track of the vaccines for children, but having a list to refer to can give you peace of mind — and spare your kids some anxiety, too.
The Standard Schedule
All vaccines work on the basic biological principle that the immune system can learn to recognize and respond to foreign invaders. The idea behind vaccination, then, is to expose your child's immune system to a dead, weakened, or otherwise modified microorganism so that he or she can form antibodies before ever being exposed to the actual illness.
Jayvee Regala, MD, is a pediatrician in Northridge, California and has been treating children for 15 years. He always advises against parents deviating from the recommended schedule, and delaying vaccinating their children. His concern is that waiting too long — generally until the child is around a year old — can actually lower the level of protection that vaccinations can provide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases a schedule of vaccines each year. It is designed to ensure that your child receives the right protection for his or her age. For example, chickenpox boosters are recommended between ages four and six, when your little one is likely to be starting school. Here are the standard recommendations for your child's vaccines.
- Hepatitis B: boosters at 1 and 6 months
- Rotavirus: boosters at 4 and sometimes 6 months
- Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (whooping cough): Known as DTap; boosters at 4, 6, 15 months and 4–6 years
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (bacterial influenza): Known as HiB; boosters at 4 months, possible boosters at 6 and 12 months
- Pneumococcal conjugate: Known as PCV13; protects against bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections; boosters at 4, 6, and 12 months
- Inactivated poliovirus (polio): Known as IPV; boosters at 4 and 6 months and 4–6 years
- Influenza (flu shot): Repeated annually, through adulthood
- Measles, mumps, rubella: Known as MMR; booster at 4–6 years
- Varicella (chickenpox): Booster at 4–6 years
- Hepatitis A: Two doses separated by 6–18 months
11 to 12 years
- Human papillomavirus (HPV2 for females, HPV4 for both): Three-dose series at intervals of 4 weeks and 16 weeks
- Meningococcal (meningitis): May be administered earlier for high-risk patients; booster at 16 years
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (whooping cough): Known as TDaP
The standard recommendations are updated annually, so try to check the schedule each year. If your child already has certain health issues, or if you're planning to travel outside of the U.S., the recommendations for your child may be different. In all cases, it's best to discuss options with your doctor to understand what vaccines your child, as an individual, needs and when.
In addition to being vigilant about vaccinations, Dr. Regala stresses the importance of trusting your doctor. You both care about your child's wellness and want to ensure that he or she gets off to the best possible start. Working together with your pediatrician, you can ensure that your child stays protected and healthy.