Lauren Eagan, NP, a nurse practitioner with Children’s Pediatricians & Associates Foggy Bottom/Capitol Hill, gives tips for understanding your child’s immunization record.

The pediatric immunization schedule can certainly be confusing for parents. There are many vaccines that children need, particularly early in life, and they should all be given within a specific time frame. Young children are particularly vulnerable to infection and your child is safest if he/she receives all his/her vaccinations on the recommended timeline.

What immunizations does my child need for school?

So, your child is starting school and you’re not sure if he or she has had the required vaccinations. Here are some items to look for when reading a vaccination record:

  • By the age of 1, most children should receive:
    • four doses of pneumococcal vaccine (PCV)
    • three doses of hepatitis B, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis/whooping cough), HiB (Haemophilus influenzae), and rotavirus
    • two doses of polio vaccine
    • one dose of hepatitis A, varicella (chicken pox), and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).
  • Between ages 1 and 2, children receive an additional dose of Hib, polio, and hepatitis A.
  • At age 4, children receive booster doses of DTaP, polio, MMR and varicella.
  • At age 11, children receive Tdap (a booster of DTaP designed for older children and adults), meningococcal vaccine, and HPV (human papilloma virus, a three-part series).
  • At age 16, adolescents receive a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine.

What are combination vaccines?

One common source of confusion can be combination shots. These shots include more than one vaccine in an effort to minimize the number of needle sticks. While great for patients, these doses can cause confusion on a vaccine record where they may be recorded under a different name. Here are some combinations that you may see on your child’s health record:

  • Pentacel: DTaP, Hib and polio
  • Pediarix: DTaP, polio and hepatitis B
  • Kinrix: DTaP and polio (age 4 years and up)
  • ProQuad: MMR and varicella (age 4 years 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 they boost immunity.

Does my child need the flu vaccine?

While vaccination against the flu is not required by schools, it is strongly recommended. The flu vaccine is only effective for the season in which it was received, so children must be vaccinated yearly in order to be protected.

Anytime you have specific questions or concerns about your child’s vaccinations, you should call your child’s primary care provider.

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