Childhood Immunizations: What You Should Know

Childhood Immunizations: What You Should Know

By Kingman Regional Medical Center Staff

Why do we vaccinate?

Vaccination is an important tool for both individuals and communities. We vaccinate to protect against many serious childhood diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, varicella (chicken pox), pertussis (whopping cough), and others.

In the United States, some of these formerly-common childhood diseases, such as polio, have been nearly eradicated. However, with recent anti-vaccine movements, some of these illnesses are returning at alarming rates, putting countless children at risk for dangerous complications.

While immunizations offer valuable protection
for the children who receive them, they also provide vital defense for people who cannot – or cannot yet – receive vaccines. This includes newborn babies who are too young to receive certain vaccines and individuals who have weakened immune systems or vaccine allergies.

When more people are vaccinated against a disease, pathogens are less likely to infect a community as a whole.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work with the body’s natural defense – the immune system – to protect against a disease. When bacteria or viruses enter the body, they multiply and attack the cells, causing an infection. The immune system creates special cells called antibodies to fight the infection. These antibodies are created for each type of new infection introduced to the body. If that same infection threatens again, the immune system has the antibodies to fight it.

Vaccines introduce a perceived infection into the body, causing it to create antibodies to fight the illness. The immune system can take up to a few weeks to produce these cells, during which the body is still susceptible to the infection. Some vaccines require multiple rounds for peak immunity.

Are vaccines safe?

Naturally, parents want what is best for their children. With so much conflicting information available, it is normal to wonder, “Are vaccines safe for my child?”

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor the safety of vaccines once they are licensed in the United States. Vaccines have been studied extensively; they have even been reformulated over the years to become safer and more effective.

Any medicine – even aspirin, can cause a reaction, but many children have little or no reaction to a vaccine. Most reactions are minor—from soreness at the injection sight, to a slight rash or mild fever that goes away within a day or two. Sometimes, children experience more serious reactions, such as muscle aches, a high fever, or chills. Among these reactions, febrile seizures can occur.

A febrile seizure is a convulsion brought on by a high fever, during which a child may shake uncontrollably, or even become unresponsive or unconscious. Any high fever can cause a febrile seizure. According to the CDC, about one in 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Fortunately, children typically recover from these episodes with no lasting effects.

More severe side effects to vaccines are extremely rare

Vaccines provide widespread health benefits, and the medical community considers them safe for the general population, not including certain immune-suppressed or allergic individuals.
If you are concerned about the safety of a certain vaccine or general vaccine safety, talk to your child’s doctor.

The CDC also offers information online, including the Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations, which is accessible at www.cdc.gov.

AgeRecommended vaccines
BirthHepB (first dose)
1-2 monthsHepB (second dose)
2 monthsDTaP (first dose)
Hib (first dose)
PCV (first dose)
Polio vaccine (first dose)
4 monthsDTaP (second dose)
Hib (second dose)
PCV (second dose)
Polio vaccine (second dose)
Rotavirus vaccine (second dose)
6 monthsDTaP (third dose)
PCV (third dose)
Yearly after6 monthsInfluenza (Some children aged 6 months to 8 years old may need second dose 4 weeks after the first dose.)
6-18 monthsHepB (third dose)
Polio vaccine (third dose)
12-15monthsHib (third dose 15 months)
MMR (first dose)
PCV (fourth dose)
Varicella (first dose)
12-23 monthsHepA (second dose given 6-18 months after first dose)
15-18 monthsDTaP (fourth dose)
4-6 yearsDTaP (fifth dose)
Polio vaccine (fourth dose)
MMR (second dose)
Varicella (second dose)
11-12 yearsTdap (booster shot to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)
HPV (two doses)
MCV4
16-18 yearsMen B (two doses at age 16)
MCV4 booster
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