Childhood vaccinations also top the list of must-haves for back to school. Every school’s immunization policy is different, but there are a number of must-get vaccines:
1. Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP)
The DTaP vaccine protects against three serious bacterial diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Children should receive five doses of the DTaP vaccine between 2 months and 6 years and a booster known as Tdap between ages 11 and 12.
2. Inactivated poliovirus
It’s recommended that children be vaccinated against polio with a four-dose series between 2 months and 6 years. Polio is a disease caused by a virus spread through contact with an infected person or by consuming food contaminated with the feces of someone who has been infected.
3. Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, diseases which are highly contagious and easily spread.
Most children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine – the first between 12 and 15 months and a second between 4 and 6 years, but those who miss the recommended age targets should be immunized with two doses at least 4 weeks apart.
4. Hepatitis B
Between birth and 18 months, children should receive three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine to help ward off the virus that causes liver inflammation and symptoms like a fever, chills, body aches, pale stool, dark urine and jaundice.
5. Varicella (chickenpox)
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease characterized by itchy blisters covering the body (or a portion of the body), fever and fatigue.
The surest prevention method is the varicella or chickenpox vaccine, and children should receive two doses: The first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years, although the second dose can be give as early as 3 months after the first.
6. Haemophilus influenzae type b
The Haemophilus influenzae type b, or Hib vaccine, protects against a type of bacteria that can cause meningitis or brain and spinal cord swelling, pneumonia, severe throat swelling and even death. The bacteria typically affects children younger than 5 years of age, so immunization is recommended beginning at 2 months. Children on the three- and four-dose series should receive a shot at 2 months, 4 months and between 12 and 15 months. Those receiving a fourth shot will also get a dose at 6 months.
7. Pneumococcal conjugate
Pneumococcal disease can cause ear infections, but it can also lead to more serious concerns like lung or blood infections or brain and spinal cord swelling (meningitis). Children younger than 2 years of age should receive four doses of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, at: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and between 12 and 15 months.
The Neisseria meningitidis bacteria can cause brain and spinal cord swelling, known as meningitis, or a blood infection, called bacteremia or septicemia.
To safeguard your children from these diseases, they should be immunized between 11 and 12 years of age with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine and receive a booster shot at 16 years old.
Not everyone who contracts the flu will have a severe case, but children younger than 5, and especially those younger than 2 years old, are at a higher risk.
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for most people, excluding children younger than 6 months and those allergic to the vaccine or any of its ingredients.
Ashley Carver, MD, is a pediatrician with Mission Pediatrics – McDowell.