Vaccines: The journey to better health

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Vaccines: The journey to better health

Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing disease and death, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Thanks to vaccines, some of the worst diseases that affect children have been greatly reduced or eliminated completely.

Most childhood vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective in preventing disease, the AAP states. And, if a child does get a disease, the symptoms are usually less serious for a vaccinated child than an unvaccinated one.

Today, vaccines protect children and teens from at least 16 diseases. These include polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia, hepatitis A and B, influenza, whooping cough, and more. Vaccines are made with disease antigens, which trigger the immune system to produce antibodies and develop immunity – without making someone sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following immunization schedule for children:

Newborn to 15 Months

  • Birth – Hepatitis B
  • 1-2 months – Hepatitis B
  • 2 months – Rotavirus, DTaP** (diphtheria, tetanus, whopping cough), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), pneumococcal, polio
  • 4 months – 2nd dose of the vaccines listed above
  • 6 months – Hepatitis B, DTap**, pneumococcal, polio, flu*
  • 12 months – MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), chickenpox, hepatitis A, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), pneumococcal
  • 15 months – DTap**

*An annual flu vaccine is recommended starting at age 6 months.

For those who fall behind or start late, provide catch-up vaccination at the earliest opportunity.

Note that the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older.

Ages 4 to 16

  • Age 4-6 – DTaP**, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella/chickenpox, poliovirus
  • Age 11-12 – Tdap**, HPV (human papillomavirus), meningococcal
  • Age 16 – Meningococcal

**The vaccines protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and whopping cough. They vary in dose only.

State laws require certain immunizations for children and adults enrolled in childcare, school, or college. Additionally, children entering early childhood, kindergarten, 6th grade, and 9th grade require an annual/school physical to ensure he or she is up to date on vaccines to protect against serious diseases.

An annual/school physical focuses on a child’s physical, developmental, and emotional health. It includes immunization and lab work, if needed.

Sports physical

A sports physical differs by reviewing a child’s health status and medical history to ensure he or she is healthy enough to play a sport. No immunizations are given.