Children need vaccines throughout their childhood to prepare their immune systems for any germs they encounter. Vaccines help the body recognize pathogens quickly and prevent serious infections from developing.
Healthcare professionals will usually let parents or caregivers know when a child is due for a vaccine. Anyone uncertain about the vaccination process, or who wants to know more, should contact their doctor.
This article will focus on the importance of vaccines and the recommended ages for receiving them.
Vaccines are a form of preventive medicine that help build up a person’s immune system against certain infectious diseases. The vaccine exposes the person to a killed or weakened form of the active disease to stimulate an immune response.
When a person encounters a live form of a virus they have been vaccinated against — for example, influenza — the body will quickly recognize the virus and produce antibodies to eliminate it. This immune response ensures the virus is dealt with quickly before it fully infects the body and makes someone very sick.
According to the
Part of the reason vaccines are so effective is that once the body has exposure to an infection-causing germ, it remembers how to create the relevant antibodies for its next encounter.
Additionally, vaccines help protect not only the individual but also the people they interact with. Vulnerable people with some underlying health conditions cannot receive vaccines. When otherwise healthy people receive vaccines it increases herd immunity, which helps prevent the spread of disease.
Ensuring children are vaccinated is the best way to prevent them from contracting a serious infection.
Healthcare professionals give children different vaccines depending on their age. Some vaccines require multiple doses, while others do not.
Shortly after babies are born and for several months after, they may receive several vaccines due to the fragility of their immune system.
Before leaving the hospital, a baby will typically get a hepatitis B vaccine.
Between 1–2 months, the
This is the second of three doses for hepatitis B.
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)
A DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). This helps prevent serious complications from these diseases, such as organ swelling or the inability to breathe.
The IPV vaccine protects against polio. Polio can cause serious complications, including paralysis.
A PCV vaccine protects against pneumococcal infections, including pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections.
An RV vaccine protects against rotavirus, which may cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
The Hib vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b infections. Serious Hib infections may lead to life threatening infections, meningitis, and intellectual disability.
As a baby grows, it is important they receive further vaccines to help strengthen their immunity against certain diseases.
At 4 months, the
- hepatitis B
At 6 months, the
Some vaccines may require fewer doses, depending on the brand or the timing of each vaccine.
The flu vaccine protects against influenza. The
Between 12 and 23 months, the
- hepatitis B (if a child has not received three doses)
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Complications from these infections may include meningitis, deafness, and dangerous swelling on the brain.
The varicella vaccine helps protect against chickenpox. Complications from the infection can be serious and may include swelling on the brain and lung infections.
Hepatitis A (hep A)
A hep A vaccine helps protect against hepatitis A. Complications from this infection may include liver failure, joint pain, and disorders of the blood, kidney, and pancreas.
At these ages, the
Some of these vaccinations are required for children to enroll in school. The school may ask for a vaccination certificate during the enrollment process.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
The HPV vaccine helps reduce the incidences of HPV complications such as cervical cancer and genital warts.
As a child gets older, they are at risk of contracting different diseases.
Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB)
For children aged between 16–18 years, the
Doctors will work with a child and their parents to discuss the vaccine schedule. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also offer more general information about vaccines. This information includes who should get a vaccine and why, and where to get a vaccine.
Global and governmental health organizations recommend a number of vaccines for children depending on their age and individual differences.
The general recommendations follow a schedule from birth to 18 years, but this could change depending on the child’s circumstances. If parents want to know more about their child’s vaccine schedule, they can discuss this with a doctor.