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Which Vaccinations Should My Child Receive?

Infectious diseases wreak havoc on Americans each year. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, approximately 15.5 million health care visits and more than 50,000 deaths related to vaccine-preventable diseases (resulting from viruses, bacteria and other harmful organisms) occur annually.

You can’t treat or cure some infectious diseases, but modern medicine led to vaccines to help prevent many of these ailments from turning deadly. While vaccines can help all ages, they start in infancy to build immunity. There are many types of vaccines, and keeping up with them can be a tedious process for some. That’s why we created a comprehensive guide, including expert advice from Vibitha Mani, M.D., a pediatrician at INTEGRIS Family Care Council Crossing, to walk you through when and which vaccinations your child should receive.

Why parents should vaccinate their children

Immunity is the body’s way of defending against diseases. Children are born with an immune system that can recognize germs as antigens, which are foreign invaders, and produce antibodies to serve as a defense mechanism.

When a specific antigen first infects your child, the body slowly produces antibodies to fight the disease. Because this process takes time, they’ll usually develop symptoms that are sometimes severe. If they get sick again in the future, the body remembers the antigen and produces antibodies more quickly, so your child may not get sick the next time.

“Imagine if our body could remember these invaders and produce antibodies without getting sick? That’s a vaccine,” Dr. Mani says. “Vaccines contain these antigens, or parts of antigens of specific diseases, in a form that doesn’t cause the disease. It instead allows the body to create antibodies so that the body can ‘remember’ and produce immunity.”

Your child may not have a strong enough immune system if they’re not vaccinated and become exposed to a bacteria or virus. This happened before vaccines when many children died from diseases such as measles, polio or whooping cough. Vaccines are a primary reason why you don’t see these diseases as often.

“Vaccinating our children also helps protect the health of our community, especially those people who can’t receive vaccines, such as newborns and people with compromised immune systems. As these diseases still exist, by keeping the vaccination rates high, we prevent epidemics of these diseases,” Dr. Mani says.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comparing annual morbidity before vaccines with more recent data after vaccines shows a large decrease in cases, with some diseases nearly eradicated. For example, 20th century morbidity totals for smallpox and diphtheria decreased from 29,005 and 21,053, respectively, to 0. Polio also decreased from 16,316 to 0 during that same time.

Types of vaccines

There are many types of vaccines to remember. Here is a general overview of what you need to know about each one. Some vaccines have a combination of several types to serve more than one purpose. For example, DTaP-IPV-HepB protects you against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and hepatitis B all in one shot.

  • Hepatitis A (HepA): Protects against the hepatitis A virus, an acute liver disease that can last up to six months. Your child will receive HepA in two shots over a six-month period once they turn 1 year old.
  • Hepatitis B (HepB): Protects against the hepatitis B virus, which causes liver issues. About 90% of infants with hepatitis B go on to develop a chronic infection. Your child will receive HepB in three shots over a six-month period.
  • Rotavirus (RV): Protects against a virus that spreads easily among infants and children and impacts the gastrointestinal system with severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Your child will receive three oral doses at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age.
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP): Protects against a trio of bacteria that causes deadly diseases leading to respiratory problems (diphtheria), muscle spasms (tetanus) and whooping cough (pertussis). Your child will receive three doses, followed by two booster shots when they’re older.
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (TDaP): The same as above, except this vaccine is for preteens, teens and adults.
  • Pneumococcal Vaccination (PCV): Protects against contagious bacterial infections that can lead to pneumonia and meningitis. Your child will need several doses, starting at 2 months old, to build up immunity. 
  • Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (HIB): Protects against viral infections that impact the brain and lungs. Again, your child will need several doses to build up immunity. 
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Protects against a group of more than 150 viruses that can lead to various types of cancer, including cervical cancer, rectal cancer, vaginal cancer and throat cancer.
  • Meningococcal ACWY: Protects against a contagious bacterial infection that causes meningitis and septicemia. Meningitis causes inflammation on the lining that protects the brain and spinal cord. Sepsis is a blood infection that causes internal bleeding. The vaccine is for children, preteens and teens.
  • Meningococcal B: Like MenACWY, MenB is a vaccine for people 10 years and older with certain health conditions or who are traveling to an area where meningococcal disease is common.
  • Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV): Protects against polio, a viral disease that can lead to brain and spinal inflammation and paralysis. Your child will receive four shots over a four- to five-year period.
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): This combination vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) that can produce swollen salivary glands (under the jaw), fever, headache, tiredness and muscle pain. Your child will receive two doses, first at 1 year old and again at 4-5 years old. They can also receive it sooner as long as it’s a month after the initial dose.
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella Vaccines (MMRV): This combination vaccine covers everything in MMR plus chickenpox. Your child will receive two doses, first at 1 year old and again at 4-5 years old. They can also receive it sooner as long as it’s a month after the initial dose.
  • Varicella: Protects against chickenpox disease that produces rash, tiredness, headache and fever. Your child will receive two doses, first at 1 year old and again at 4-5 years old. The second dose can come from MMRV. They can also receive it sooner as long as it’s a month after the initial dose.

Immunization Schedule (click here to download a pdf)

Vaccination schedule for children

Below is a general overview from Dr. Mani of which vaccines your child needs spanning from when they’re born until they become an adult. The CDC has a more in-depth schedule for birth through 6 years old and another for 7 years old to 18 years old. Not included in this schedule is the annual flu vaccine. Your child should receive one shot followed by a booster shot in one month if they’re 6 months and older. It decreases to one shot per year at 8 years old.

Infant and toddler years

Birth: 

  • HepB

2 months: 

  • DTaP-IPV-HepB vaccine
  • PCV
  • HIB
  • Rota (oral)

4 months: 

  • DTaP-IPV-HepB vaccine
  • PCV
  • HIB
  • Rota (oral) 

6 months: 

  • DTaP-IPV-HepB vaccine
  • PCV
  • HIB
  • Rota (oral)

12 months: 

  • MMR
  • Varicella
  • Hep A

15 months: 

  • DTaP
  • HIB
  • PCV

18 months: 

  • HepA (one shot)

Preschool and elementary school years

4-5 years:

  • DTaP-IPV vaccine
  • MMRV
  • Preteen and teen years

11 years: 

  • HPV (second HPV in six months)
  • TDaP
  • MenACWY

16 years: 

  • MenACWY
  • MenB (second MenB in one month) 

What to expect at each round of vaccinations

Before you arrive, consider talking to your child about immune system health if they’re old enough. Explain what vaccines are and what they can expect. This will give them a sense of reality. Make sure they know they may experience short-term discomfort, but the vaccines will keep them healthy in the long run.

You should also research the Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for each immunization your child will receive. This provides specific information on the vaccine, why it’s important, what to do if there are side effects and resources to help if you have more questions. Staying informed will allow for more dialogue with your doctor should you have any questions that need further explanation.

“Let your doctor know if your child is sick at that time, has any illnesses that affect the immune system, such as cancer, is taking any medications that weaken the immune system or has had any severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past,” Dr. Mani says.

Afterward, you can help comfort your child by breastfeeding, bottle-feeding or offering comfort objects. If they’re older, you can reward them with a toy or activity. We’ll explore side effects more below, but you should keep an eye out for common reactions, such as pain, swelling or redness at the injection site, fever, fussiness, tiredness, headache or muscle aches. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns following vaccines. 

The Importance of child wellness visits

There are many important topics addressed during your child’s wellness visits. According to Dr. Mani, this includes ensuring your child is growing well, meeting developmental milestones, discussing age-appropriate safety and preventative measures, addressing mental health if appropriate, providing anticipatory guidance on what happens before the next check-up, answering questions and then updating your child’s vaccines. 

She says vaccines are the single most important thing you can do for your child to boost immunity and protect them against deadly diseases and even certain types of cancer. Your child can receive vaccinations as part of routine wellness visits. They’re also available at the state and county health department, some pharmacies (check with the pharmacy about age restrictions) and sometimes at schools.

Keeping up with a vaccine schedule

With as many as 12 shots in the first year and many more after that, it can seem overwhelming to keep up with how many vaccines your child receives.

Many states have immunization information systems (IIS) to keep track of vaccination records. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Immunization Information System (OSIIS) collects and maintains accurate and current immunization records for Oklahomans of all ages. Your doctor’s office can access this database and print a record for you.

You can also print out your own shot sheet and bring it to each wellness visit so your doctor’s office can keep it updated. There are even mobile apps, such as the CDC Vaccine Schedule, to give you a general idea of which vaccines apply for each age.

Once you start, it’s essential to keep up with the correct schedule of vaccine doses. There are risks associated with missing or skipping vaccinations. Dr. Mani says to notify your doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room staff if your child doesn’t have certain vaccinations.

“Scientists have developed our current immunization schedule based on our national infectious disease data so that we can give children the best chance of developing full immunity for these diseases,” she says. “Missing vaccines puts children at risk of developing these vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and polio. Children don’t receive any known benefits from delaying vaccines or skipping vaccines.”

In the event your child isn’t fully immunized, you should know your child can become infected by outbreaks or exposures, even from people who are asymptomatic. If exposed, Dr. Mani says to isolate your child from others, including family members, especially infants and people with weakened immune systems. 

Vaccine side effects

While vaccines will prevent your child from becoming infected with deadly viruses and diseases, you should still be aware of small side effects. Dr. Mani says pain, swelling or redness at the injection site are the most common side effects, along with fever, fussiness, tiredness, headache, muscle aches and rash. Serious side effects from vaccines are rare. For example, if 1 million doses of a vaccine are given, 1 to 2 people may have a severe allergic reaction. While side effects are scary, especially with a child, keep in mind this is a sign the body is building immunity.

“It’s never easy to see your child in pain, but you should know that discomfort from vaccines is temporary,” she says. “The benefit of immunity from these preventable diseases outweigh the risks.”

In general, any medication, including vaccines, can cause a severe allergic reaction. A common myth is vaccines cause autism. Dr. Mani notes how studies have looked for a link between vaccines and autism, and the research shows there isn’t a correlation. Contact your doctor if you have any specific questions or concerns.

 

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