It seems like new parents have a million responsibilities to juggle, especially when it comes to the health of your little ones. Among those responsibilities? Childhood immunizations.
When you first spot a checklist of the shots your baby needs, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. The list can seem endless. And while pediatricians typically give you handouts for what the shots are for, all that literature can feel daunting.
Do they really need so many shots all at once?
In short, yes. There’s a reason the CDC recommends the shots that they do and when to get them. But even knowing that may not make you feel totally confident.
As always, talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have specific questions. The following is for information only and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for getting medical advice from your own provider.
That said, here’s a quick roundup of the recommended childhood vaccines for your kiddo and what they’re for.
Note: The following is for information only and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor for information about vaccines and other health information for you and/or your children.
The first vaccine that new babies receive is HepB. It protects against hepatitis B, a liver disease.
Many people aren’t aware that they have hepatitis B, so they unknowingly pass it on. That means unvaccinated newborns are vulnerable because they can catch hepatitis B from their mothers.
Because of routine HepB vaccination for babies, it’s now uncommon for kids and teens to develop this disease.
- Schedule: Most newborns receive this vaccine while still in the hospital. Follow-up doses are given at 1 to 2 months and 6 to 18 months.
The DTaP acronym stands for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis. Those are three different bacterial diseases, and they all have the potential to be fatal. You may know pertussis as whooping cough.
- Schedule: Babies get their first dose of DTaP at 2 months. Additional doses are administered at 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years.
Haemophilus influenzae type b is a disease caused by bacteria. It can lead to meningitis, which is brain inflammation.
This disease is easily spread by people who are unaware that they’re harboring the bacteria. And young children are the most susceptible to Hib infections, hence the need for a vaccine.
- Schedule: Infants should get Hib shots at 2 months and 4 months. Depending on the brand used, another dose may be required at 6 months. All babies need a final dose between 12 and 15 months.
The thought of polio once terrified parents. Catching this disease could leave kids paralyzed for life.
Thanks to inactivated polio vaccine, sometimes called IPV, polio is no longer a threat in the United States. It does still exist in other parts of the world, though, so American kids should keep getting this shot. And with a recent case identified in New York — the first U.S. case since 2013 — it’s more important than ever to make sure you and your kids are up to date on the polio vaccine.
- Schedule: Kids get four doses of IPV. They’re given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years.
Also known as pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV protects against pneumococcal diseases. These illnesses are caused by a particular group of bacteria that can cause a variety of problems. They include pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis.
- Schedule: Babies need four PCV shots. The doctor will give the first three at months 2, 4 and 6. The final one is done between 12 and 15 months.
Rotavirus is a disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in young children. Some kids might even end up in the hospital when they catch this illness.
The rotavirus vaccine, RV, guards against many rotavirus infections. And for those kids who still get sick, it can reduce the symptoms. This is an oral vaccine and only babies can receive it.
- Schedule: RV is given at 2 months and 4 months. Depending on the brand, there may be a 6-month dose, too.
Most people know of influenza as the flu, but it’s not the type of flu that causes upset stomachs. Rather, influenza is a respiratory disease.
While many people recover from the flu just fine, it does have the potential to cause complications or even death. Kids ages 5 and under are particularly at risk.
The flu vaccine can be given as a shot or a nasal spray, though kids have to be at least 2 years old before they can get the spray.
- Schedule: From 6 months and up, everyone should get an annual flu shot. Young kids who are receiving a flu shot for the first time need a second dose about one month after the first.
The MMR vaccine protects against three different illnesses: measles, mumps and rubella. Another name for rubella is German measles.
- Schedule: This is a two-dose vaccine. Doctors administer the shots at 12 to 15 months and 4 to 6 years.
Chickenpox, also known as varicella, used to be a common childhood illness. Most cases involved a week of itchy spots. Some cases, though, led to serious complications or death.
Today, vaccines offer protection from this illness. According to some estimates, chickenpox vaccinations save around 100 lives each year.
- Schedule: Kids get the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years.
Like hepatitis B, hepatitis A is a liver disease. It spreads easily in daycares and other places with young children. Vaccination can protect your children as well as their friends.
- Schedule: Toddlers should get a HepA vaccine between 12 and 23 months. A second dose six months later will provide longer-lasting protection.
The human papillomavirus vaccine protects against sexually transmitted infections that can cause cervical cancer in females.
But this shot isn’t just for girls. Giving it to boys could reduce the likelihood that they’ll spread the virus. It may also give them some protection from certain mouth and throat cancers.
Ideally, kids should get this vaccine before they become sexually active.
- Schedule: Most kids get the first shot at age 11 or 12. The second dose is administered around six months later, and a third dose might be necessary in some cases.
Like DTaP, Tdap protects against diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis. This vaccine, though, is given to older kids and adults.
- Schedule: All kids should get a Tdap shot between ages 11 and 18. The best time is when they’re 11 or 12.
There are several different types of meningococcal bacteria, which can cause meningitis. That’s inflammation of the brain or spine. The MenACWY vaccine guards against types A, C, W and Y.
- Schedule: Kids get two doses of this shot. The first is at age 11 or 12, and the second is at 16.
Meningococcal bacterium type B is another cause of meningitis. The vaccine for it is fairly new on the scene, so it’s not yet part of the regular childhood vaccination schedule. You may still want to discuss with your teen’s doctor whether getting this shot would be a good idea.
- Schedule: Most kids who get this shot will do so between ages 16 and 18.
Sticking with the Schedule
Delayed vaccinations might sound like a good idea when you’re looking at a list this long, but the CDC and other experts say you should adhere to the recommended timeline.
That’s because this carefully crafted schedule gives kids the right shots at just the right times. It considers when their immune systems can best respond to each one.
The recommended schedule also aims to protect kids before they’re exposed to deadly diseases. Many doses are administered during the first year of life because that’s a time when little bodies are especially vulnerable to illness complications.
Plus, kids on a spread-out schedule will have to catch up eventually. That often involves getting more doses of a vaccine than they would have needed with an on-time schedule.
To learn more about vaccines and timelines, talk to your child’s pediatrician. She can answer your questions, walk you through the options and explain each shot in detail so you know more about the process — the what and the why.