Health News
Health News
August 13, 2021
Vaccines: What You & Your Child Need

It’s August, which means it’s nearly time for the kids to go back to school.  Along with hunting for school supplies, clothes and back-to-school haircuts, this is the perfect time to make sure your child is up to date on all required immunizations.  

Unlike this time last year, more students will be back at school and in the classroom.  The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life for all of us, especially for parents with school-age children who were having to keep up their studies virtually.

One of the many ways the pandemic threw a wrench in things is that some folks postponed routine medical care, including immunizations.  For people whose children got behind on their scheduled immunizations, now is exactly the right time to get caught up! As children return to school, we need to make sure they are protected from preventable illnesses. 

Texas law requires that school children who attend public, charter or private schools be current on several vaccines.  In addition to these mandatory immunizations, there are a few more that are strongly recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the healthcare providers of Privia Medical Group North Texas (PMGNTX).

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines work by bolstering the human body’s natural defenses.  Some vaccines contain a live germ that has been weakened so it will not make the person sick.  Others may contain an inactivated, or dead, germ or a part of the germ that causes the illness.

The body naturally produces white blood cells to fight off infections.  Vaccines strengthen those defenses by helping to train white blood cells on how to fight the disease.  After the vaccine, certain types of white blood cells will remember how to fight a particular infection if they encounter it again.  With some diseases, multiple doses of a vaccine are required to fully train the body to fight the infection.  Some protections may wear off over time, necessitating a booster vaccine to bring the body’s defenses back up to maximum strength.

Vaccines: Safe & Effective

It is a matter of proven science that vaccines prevent illness and save lives.  Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation about vaccines that has resulted in some parents questioning their value or even mistakenly believing vaccines are harmful.  Much of the conversation around vaccines is cloaked in innocuous-sounding language about “parental choice,” but the reality is the anti-vax movement spreads dangerous misinformation. 

Vaccine myths can be traced back to a British physician who claimed in the late 1990s that a certain vaccine could cause autism in children.  His false claims were quickly discredited by the scientific and medical community.  But with the ability of information to spread quickly online – even when false – some parents mistakenly believed that a vaccine/autism link existed.  For more information about autism, what causes it, and what does not, see our April article on Autism Awareness.

Vaccines are thoroughly tested through a series of rigorous clinical trials before they are approved for use by the Food & Drug Administration. Vaccine manufacturers must be able to prove – through extensive testing – that the vaccine is safe and effective. 

The COVID-19 Vaccine

Everyone 12 and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine.  COVID-19 cases have certainly declined over the course of this year, thanks to the vaccines.  However, the disease is still here, with new cases being reported every day.  The new Delta variant has made COVID-19 even more transmissible, meaning those who are not vaccinated are now at even greater risk of getting the disease. 

COVID-19 does affect children, so it makes sense for children to get the vaccine when they are old enough.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12-17 and it is expected that they will approve a vaccine for use in children younger than 12 in the months ahead.  People 18 or older can also get the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is easy to obtain now.  Many pharmacies now offer the vaccine, which remains free of charge.  To find a vaccine near you:

  • Go to vaccines.gov
  • Text your zip code to 438829
  • Call 1-800-232-0233

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, see our April article

Immunization Schedule

Children begin receiving immunizations shortly after birth and continue to do so throughout childhood.  However, immunizations are not just for babies and young children.  People of all ages need periodic immunizations to protect against various diseases.  Here is a look at the most common immunizations, the diseases they help prevent and standard guidelines on who should get them and when. 

Please note that these are standard guidelines developed and issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If you or your child have an underlying health condition, your physician may recommend forgoing a vaccine or receiving additional vaccines.  It is important to consult with your physician on immunizations

Printable, color-coded charts showing recommended vaccinations by age can be found on the CDC’s website:

The information in these charts and below has been updated for 2021.  Vaccines are listed in chronological order based on the age they are administered. 

Required Immunizations for Children

Hepatitis B (HepB)

Vaccine Schedule

Birth AND

1-2 months AND

6-18 months

Why It’s Important

Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver.  It is spread through the blood and other bodily fluids.   

Rotavirus (RV, RV1, RV5)

Vaccine Schedule

2 months AND

4 months

6 months (depending on type of vaccine)

Why It’s Important

Rotavirus causes gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the digestive system.  It can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever and pain.  It is spread through the mouth. 

Diphtheria, tetanus & acellular pertussis (DTaP)

Vaccine Schedule

2 months AND

4 months AND

6 months AND

15-18 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are serious diseases caused by bacteria.  Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the throat and can lead to cardiovascular and breathing problems, paralysis and death.  It is spread through the air and direct contact. 

Tetanus, also called “lockjaw,” causes tightening of muscles throughout the body.  In the event the jaw locks, a person may be unable to swallow.  It can lead to breathing difficulties and even death.  It can be contracted through a cut in the skin. 

Pertussis is also referred to as whooping cough.  This disease causes intense coughing fits for infants and young children, leaving them unable to eat or drink.  Pertussis can lead to pneumonia and death.  It is highly contagious, spread through the air and direct contact. 

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Vaccine Schedule

2 months AND

4 months AND

6 months AND

12-15 months

Why It’s Important

Hib disease is a bacterial disease that can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and death.  Before the Hib vaccine, Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis infections in children under the age of 5.  It spreads through air and direct contact. 

Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)

Vaccine Schedule

2 months AND

4 months AND

6 months AND

12-15 months

Why It’s Important

Pneumococcal disease can cause ear infections, bloodstream infections, meningitis and pneumonia.  Young children and older people are especially vulnerable to pneumonia.  Pneumococcal bacteria spread through the air and direct contact.  PCV13 protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause the most severe pneumococcal illnesses. 

Polio: Inactivated poliovirus (IPV)

Vaccine Schedule

2 months AND

4 months AND

6-18 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Polio is a devastating disease that can cause paralysis and death. It was quite common in the first half of the 20th century.  The polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955, and thanks to widespread vaccinations, polio was considered eradicated in the United States by 1979.  However, polio cases continue to be reported in some parts of the world, so immunizations remain absolutely necessary.

Influenza (IIV)

Vaccine Schedule

6 months AND

Every year thereafter

Why It’s Important

The flu causes serious symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, extreme fatigue and headache.  Young children and older adults are especially susceptible to complications, such as pneumonia and even death.

The flu vaccine is updated each year to be as effective as possible against the flu virus strains anticipated.  Annual flu vaccines are generally available beginning in September.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Vaccine Schedule

12-15 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Measles causes runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and a rash that spreads all over the body.  Mumps causes flu-like symptoms and swollen salivary glands, while Rubella produces symptoms similar to measles.  All three diseases spread through air and direct contact. 

A highly contagious respiratory virus, measles used to be quite common; in fact, virtually all children used to contract the disease by the age of 15.  Measles vaccinations began in the mid-1950s and served to largely eliminate the disease as a common occurrence.  As with pertussis, however, there have been reports of measles occurrences in non-immunized children.  Measles cases reached a 27-year high in the United States in 2019. 

Chickenpox: Varicella (VAR)

Vaccine Schedule

12-15 months AND

4-6 years

Why It’s Important

Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads through air and direct contact. It causes a severe rash, fever and fatigue.  The virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles in adults.

Before a vaccine was approved for use in 1995, chickenpox was quite common, usually affecting children ages 10 and younger. 

Hepatitis A (HepA)

Vaccine Schedule

12-23 months (two doses, six months apart)

Why It’s Important

Hepatitis A attacks the liver.  It generally spreads through accidental ingestion of microscopic amounts of fecal matter.


Meningococcal (MenACWY)

Vaccine Schedule

11-12 years AND

16 years

Why It’s Important

There are several different forms of meningococcal disease, some of which can be prevented through vaccinations.  This disease causes meningitis, which attacks the central nervous system by infecting membranes on the brain and spinal cord.  It can also cause an infection of the bloodstream.              

Meningitis is prone to be transmitted between teenagers and college students through sharing drinks, kissing and living in close quarters, such as a dorm. Meningitis is a highly contagious, dangerous illness that leads to death in 1 out of 10 cases.  Those who survive the disease often have very serious and lasting health conditions.  Vaccinations are the best way to prevent infection. 

Tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis (Tdap)

Vaccine Schedule

11-12 years

Why It’s Important

Tdap provides continued protection from the same diseases as the DTaP. 

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Vaccine Schedule

11-12 years (girls and boys)

Why It’s Important

HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer and can also lead to cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum, throat, head and neck.  HPV is a common virus transmitted through sexual contact. 

In most cases, HPV is harmless, but sometimes it can alter cells and cause cancer.  The HPV vaccine dramatically reduces a girl’s odds of ever developing cervical cancer and protects boys, as well. 

 

COVID-19 Vaccine

Vaccine Schedule

12 years and older. Two doses, three weeks apart

Why It’s Important

While COVID-19 has been more prevalent in adults, children can also get COVID-19 and some may suffer serious health issues as a result.  The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been determined to be safe and effective for children 12 and older. 

Optional for Young Adults

Meningococcal B (MenB)

Vaccine Schedule

Young adults 16-18 years old who wish to receive the vaccine, after consultation with a physician; 2-dose series

Why It’s Important

The MenB vaccine provides additional protection against a form of meningitis.

Adult Immunizations

While we receive most of our immunizations during childhood, there are some vaccines adults need to get, as well.  The following recommended immunization schedule is for most adults. 

Additional immunizations and/or a modified immunization schedule may be recommended by your physician based upon medical history and overall health.  For adults who did not receive or are unsure if they received certain vaccines in their youth, they should discuss this with their health care provider, who may recommend receiving some vaccinations as an adult.

COVID-19

Who Needs It & When

Everyone, ages 12 and up

Vaccine may be in 1 or 2 doses, a few weeks apart

Why It’s Important

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the entire world. In the United States alone, more than 600,000 people have lost their lives due to the disease.  The vaccines are safe and effective and allow people to live normal lives again. 

Influenza

Who Needs It & When

Everyone, once a year

Why It’s Important

At a minimum, the flu will cause you to feel miserable for a week or even longer.  For some people, it can lead to hospitalization and even death.  Getting a flu shot is one of the best things you can do for your health.   

Tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis (Tdap) 

Who Needs It & When

Any adult who did not receive a Tdap as a child (11-12 years) should receive one dose

Women who are pregnant should receive a Tdap between the 27th and 36th week of each pregnancy for the protection of the mother and baby

Family members and others who will be spending time around a newborn should receive a Tdap at least two weeks before the child is born for the child’s protection

Why It’s Important

Pertussis continues to be a significant health risk, with continued reports of the disease in the United States.  Since babies are especially vulnerable to the disease, a Tdap during pregnancy helps provide protection. 

 

Tetanus/diphtheria (Td)

Who Needs It & When

Once one has received a Tdap, regardless of age, everyone needs to get a Td booster every 10 years

For someone who suffers a significant wound, a Td booster or Tdap should be administered if it has been 5 years or longer since the last dose.

Why It’s Important

Unlike other infections, tetanus does not spread from person to person.  It is a type of bacteria that live in soil, dust and manure and can enter the body through a superficial wound, even one as minor as a cut or scrape.  Getting a tetanus booster every 10 years is critical to protecting against this risk. 

Zoster (Shingles)

Who Needs It & When

Adults at age 50; two doses, 2-6 months apart

Why It’s Important

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.  If you have had the chickenpox – or the chickenpox vaccine – you are at risk for shingles. 

Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)

Who Needs It & When

Adults at age 65

Why It’s Important

Senior citizens are much more susceptible to developing pneumonia, a severe respiratory illness that claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans each year.  PPSV23 helps protect against 23 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria. 

This article contains information sourced from:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention