Immunizations are a huge part of keeping your baby healthy. (Sorry, Jenny McCarthy.)
Throughout the years, the American Academy of Pediatrics, backed by the Centers for Disease Control, have developed a schedule for which vaccines should be given and at what ages. (If your child has other health concerns, or a family history of allergic reactions, your pediatrician may work with you to create a delayed vaccination schedule for the best interest of your child’s health.)
Why subject your baby to so many tearful pediatrician visits? What are they for, exactly? Here’s the most up-to-date immunization schedule from the AAP (updated 01/2014):
Hepatitis B Vaccine (HepB)
Why do we need it? Hepatitis B is an acute liver disease cause by a virus that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer, and death. When should your baby get it? The first dose should be given within a week of your baby’s birth. It will usually be given before you ever leave the hospital. A second dose should happen between 1 and 2 months, and the third dose around 6 months. Side effects? Possible short-term soreness at the injection site and fussiness are common.
Rotavirus Vaccine (RV)
Why do we need it? Rotavirus is the most common cause worldwide of severe diarrhea and vomiting in young children. This vaccine is taken orally, rather than as a shot. When should your baby get it? The first dose will be given at 2 months; the second at 4 months. There may be a third dose at 6 months, depending on the brand of vaccine being used. Side effects? Mild diarrhea is possible temporarily, and fussiness is common.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis Vaccine (DTaP)
Why do we need it? This is a combo of vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis in one shot. Diphtheria used to be (before vaccinations) a prevalent sickness that causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Tetanus (also known as lockjaw) is a serious illness that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body, but most usually of the jaw. Pertussis is also known as the whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection, particularly serious in infants. When should your baby get it? Your baby will receive 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine. The first at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months, the fourth between 15 and 18 months, and the last between 4 to 6 years. Side effects? Common side effects from this combination of vaccines are tenderness, swelling, redness, fever, and listlessness or loss of appetite. All usually pass within two days of receiving the shot.
Haemophilus Influenzae Type B Conjugate Vaccine (Hib)
Why do we need it? The Hib vaccinates against meningitis, pneumonia, epiglottitis, and other serious infections caused by the bacteria Haemophilus Influenzae Type B. The Hib vaccine can be combined with other vaccines in the schedule to reduce the need for multiple pokes on the same visit. When should your baby get it? Your child will get 4 doses of the Hib vaccine. The first at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months, and the final dose between 12 and 15 months. Side effects? Common side effects include possible fever, redness or tenderness at the injection site, and fussiness.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13)
Why do we need it? The PCV13 vaccinates against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including ear infections, blood infections, pneumonia, and meningitis, which can be serious and even lead to death. When should your baby get it? Your child will get 4 doses of the PCV13 vaccine. The first at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months, and the fourth dose between 12 and 15 months. Side effects? Common side effects of this shot include possible fever, and redness or tenderness at injection site.
Inactivated Polio virus Vaccine (IPV)
Why do we need it? The IPV vaccinates against Polio, which is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. Polio can lead to paralysis, permanent disability, and even death. When baby gets it? Your child will receive 4 doses of IPV. The first at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third between 6 to 18 months, and the fourth between 4 to 6 years. Side effects? Common side effects of this vaccine include mild soreness or redness near the site of injection.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine (MMR)
Why do we need it? This is another combo shot that vaccinates against measles, mumps, and rubella, which are dangerous (contagious) illness that can cause rashes, fevers, and complications that can lead to serious conditions like pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, seizures and deafness, and can pose serious birth defect risks when pregnant women are exposed. When should your baby get it? Your child will usually get two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first between 12 to 15 months, and the second dose between 4 to 6 years. (If you plan to leave the country, or attend some higher education facilities, a booster MMR may be required, even as an adult!) Side effects? Common side effects to the MMR vaccine include a possible rash, mild fever, joint aches, and less common but still possible are swelling in the glands in the cheek and neck within 7-10 days.
Varicella Vaccine (Chicken Pox)
Why do we need it? Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease that causes a very uncomfortable and most often severe rash. Complications from chicken pox include a bacterial infection of the skin, encephalitis, and pneumonia. This vaccine doesn’t completely prevent chicken pox in all cases, but research has proven that it greatly lessens the severity of the disease and improves recovery time. When should your baby get it? This vaccination is scheduled into two doses. The first between 12 to 15 months, and the second dose between 4 to 6 years. Side effects? Common side effects from this vaccine include possible soreness or tenderness at the injection site, mild fever, and a possible rash.
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Why do we need it? Hepatitis A is a disease that causes liver inflammation. It is often not recognized in young children because of a lack of symptoms, until the child’s caregiver becomes ill with yellowed skin or eyes, tiredness, stomach ache, loss of appetite, or nausea. Untreated Hep A can lead to liver failure and death. When should your baby get it? Your child will receive 2 doses of the HepA vaccine. The first between 12 to 23 months, and the second dose between 6 to 18 months later. Possible side effects? Common side effects from the HepA vaccine include possible soreness at the injection site, headache, loss of appetite, and general listlessness.
Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine, Quadrivalent (MCV4)
Why do we need it? The MCV4 vaccinates against Meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis, blood infections and other infections, all of which can be serious and even fatal. When should your baby get it? This vaccine is recommended in 4 doses for high-risk children. The first 2 doses should occur between the ages of 9 to 23 months, the third around 11 or 12 years old, and the fourth around age 16. Side effects? Common side effects of the MCV4 vaccine include redness and soreness at the injection site and a light fever.
Yes, vaccinations suck big time, but they really do help keep your baby healthy in the long run. And, fortunately, your baby won’t remember any of it.