The pediatric immunization schedule can be complicated for parents. Children need a variety of vaccines during their first few years, which should be administered within a specific time frame. Young children are the most vulnerable to infection, so following the recommended timeline ensures they are protected.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have released a recommended schedule for immunization that can be used to track and administer vaccines at the right time. As kids begin and return to school, here’s a guide to keep their vaccine record up-to-date:

Vaccines for returning to school

Many vaccines are necessary because they not only protect your child, but also everyone else from contracting a virus. If a large group of children are not vaccinated, illnesses can resurface and have serious lifetime effects on the general population. Before back-to-school season, your child should get the following vaccines:

  • By age one, most children need to receive:
    • Four doses of Prevnar®, a pneumococcal vaccine.
    • Three doses of hepatitis B and DTaP to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis/whooping cough.
    • Three doses of Hib and RotaTeq® to protect against Haemophilus influenzae, meningitis, pneumonia, epiglottitis and rotavirus.
    • Two doses of the polio vaccine.
    • One dose of hepatitis A, varicella to protect against chicken pox, and MMR to combat measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Between ages one and two, children should receive an additional dose of:
    • Hib, which further prevents serious infections caused by bacteria.
    • Inactivated poliovirus and oral poliovirus vaccine.
    • Hepatitis A vaccine, which protects against highly infectious liver infections.
  • At age four, children should receive a booster dose, or an additional administration of a vaccine, of the vaccines they received at age one:
    • DTaP
    • Polio
    • MMR
    • Varicella
  • At age 11, children should receive:
    • Tdap, a booster dose of DTaP designed for older children and adults.
    • Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against Neisseria meningitidis.
    • HPV, human papilloma virus vaccine (Gardasil), which is a three-part series. For older children, it’s important to get the Gardasil vaccine as it protects them from cervical, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancer.
  • Lastly, at age 16, adolescents receive a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine.

Combination vaccines

These shots include more than one vaccine, which minimizes the number of needle sticks. While great for patients, these doses can cause confusion on a vaccine record, as they may be recorded under a different name. Here are some combinations you might see on your child’s health record that indicate your child has received a combo shot:

  • Pentacel: DTaP Hib, and polio
  • Pediarix: DTaP, polio, and hepatitis B
  • Kinrix: DTaP and polio (age four and up)
  • ProQuad: MMR and varicella (age four and up)

Occasionally, parents may notice that their child has received more than the minimum required dose of a particular vaccine. Don’t worry, extra doses are not harmful, and in many cases boost immunity.

What about the flu vaccine? 

While vaccination against the flu is not required by schools, it is strongly recommended. Many parents wonder if the vaccine could cause their child to be more susceptible to contracting the flu. The flu is a serious, sometimes life threatening illness, and there is no evidence that indicates a child will contract the flu from a flu vaccine. In fact, the risk of contracting the flu is much higher the longer a child goes without his or her flu vaccine. Parents are often unaware of the serious threat the flu can pose to a young child. Children under the age of 5 who contract the flu are at risk of being hospitalized, as the virus is more difficult to fight off in a younger immune system. Additionally, the flu vaccine is only effective for the season when it was received, not the entire year, so children must be vaccinated annually to stay protected.

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