Childhood Vaccinations

To keep your child healthy, he or she should receive the recommended childhood vaccinations or immunizations. Many vaccinations are given in a series of doses over a certain period of time. To be protected, your child needs each dose at the right time. Vaccines may cause mild side effects. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of vaccines. Also talk to your health care provider about any missed vaccinations. Your child will need catch-up vaccinations for complete protection.

The following are infections for which there are routine childhood vaccinations:

Hepatitis B (HepB): Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that can damage the  to the liver. Some people may later develop liver cancer or liver failure. The HepB vaccination schedule is usually given in 3 doses: soon after birth, at age 1 to 2 months, and at age 6 to 18 months.

Rotavirus (RV): Rotavirus disease is caused by the rotavirus. The illness involves severe vomiting and diarrhea  in young children, and can lead to severe dehydration. Children often need to be hospitalized. The rotavirus vaccine is given in 3 doses: ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.

Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP): Diphtheria is an infection that can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing and swollen neck glands. In severe cases, the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream and damage the heart and other organs and even lead to death.

Tetanus (lockjaw) is caused by a bacteria and can lead to muscle spasms that keep you from opening your mouth, swallowing, or breathing. Even with treatment, the condition is usually fatal. Pertussis (whooping cough) is caused by a bacteria and results in coughing and choking spells. It can also lead to pneumonia or brain damage in infants. The DTaP vaccine is given in 5 doses: ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years. Your child also needs a booster dose (called the Tdap) at ages 11 through 12 years. If he or she is older than that, the Tdap should replace the next tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster. The Td booster should then be received every 10 years throughout life.

Haemophilus influenzaetype b (Hib): Haemophilus influenzae type b is a bacteria that can cause meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord). It can also cause pneumonia and other serious infections. The Hib vaccine is given at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 through 15 months. Another Hib is given at age 2 months and 4 months, the dose at age 6 months can be skipped. Talk to your health care provider for more information about this.

Inactivated Polio (IPV): Polio is caused by a virus. It can cause permanent paralysis of the muscles, including the muscles that control breathing. Polio can also cause death. The polio vaccine is given in 4 doses: ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years.

  • Infants, children, and adults traveling to countries where polio is still active, and staying for more than 4 weeks, should get age-appropriate polio vaccines or a polio booster within 12 months before travel..

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR):

  • Measles causes fever and a rash. It can also cause hearing loss, brain damage, or death.

  • Mumps has symptoms of fever, headache, and swollen, painful glands under the jaw. It can damage the testes causing infertility in males. Mumps can also lead to hearing loss or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Rubella (German measles) causes fever, swollen glands, and rash. If a pregnant woman develops rubella, her baby may be born with severe health problems. The MMR vaccine is given in 2 doses: ages 12 through 15 months, and 4 through 6 years.

Varicella (Var): Varicella (chickenpox) is caused by a virus and results in itchy skin blisters. In rare cases, pneumonia, severe skin infections, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) may develop and lead to death. This vaccine is given in 2 doses: ages 12 through 15 months, and ages 4 through 6 years.

Meningococcal (MCV): Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria and leads to meningitis, an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include high fever, headache, and stiff neck. Left untreated, it can result in other serious health problems, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. In some cases, it can cause death. The vaccine is given at ages 11 to 12, with a booster shot at age 16. If your child is vaccinated for the first time at ages 13 through 15, he or she should receive a booster shot at ages 16 to 18. College freshmen living in dormitories should be vaccinated if they have not been immunized before.

  • If your child has a weak immune system due to HIV or other medical condition, your child's health care provider may recommend that he or she be vaccinated at a younger age.   

Pneumococcal: Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacteria. It can affect the brain and spinal cord, lungs, and ears. In severe cases, infection can be deadly. This vaccine is given in 4 doses: ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 through 15 months.

Influenza (flu): Influenza is caused by a virus and can lead to fever, headache, sore throat, cough, and muscle aches. It can also result in pneumonia and death, especially in very young children. The flu vaccine is given every year during the fall.

  • Children, beginning at age 6 months should receive the vaccine. Children will receive 2 doses of the vaccine if they have never received the vaccine.

Hepatitis A (HepA): Hepatitis A is caused by a virus and can cause sudden liver inflammation. The HepA vaccine is given in 2 doses at least 6 months apart, starting at age 1 year.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): Genital HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a virus. Infection with certain types of the virus can result in genital warts and/or cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancers in women.  For the vaccine to work, it should be given in late childhood. The vaccine is given in 3 doses:

  • For girls, the first does is usually given between 11 and 12 years.

  • For boys, the first dose is usually given between 9 to 18 years.

  • Both boys and girls get the next 2 doses 2 and 6 months after the first dose.

Talk with your child's health care provider about all childhood immunizations. Make sure you also receive all recommended immunizations.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 8/28/2014
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