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Protect Your Kids with Lifesaving Vaccines

Summer is already half over, and the kids will be heading back to school next month – that means it is time to schedule doctor appointments and make sure everyone is up to date on important childhood vaccines. 

“Vaccines keep our children healthy, protecting them from serious diseases,” says Dr. Emily Copeland, a Dallas pediatrician.  “Before vaccines, many children – and adults – would become seriously ill and even die from horrific illnesses that there was no way to prevent.  Thanks to vaccines, today we can stop these diseases and keep our kids safe and healthy.” 

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines are the foundation of preventive healthcare.  They protect us by supercharging the body’s immune system to protect against dangerous bacteria and viruses.  Different vaccines do this in various ways, but fundamentally, they all train the body to successfully fight off these threats.  For some diseases, that protection is further enhanced by sending in reinforcements in the form of a booster vaccine sometime after the original vaccine. 

When a large percentage of the population is immunized against an illness – usually around 95% – we have achieved what is known as herd immunity.  If 95 out of every 100 people are immunized, the bacteria or virus is unable to spread. 

When vaccination rates drop below herd immunity levels, the disease has new opportunities to spread within the population.  That’s why it is so important that everyone be vaccinated against these preventable diseases. 

Fighting Childhood Vaccine Hesitancy

In the last two decades, a lot of false information about vaccines has spread online – this has led to increased vaccine hesitancy.  However, claims that vaccines are unsafe or cause negative health effects, such as autism, are false. 

“Vaccines are thoroughly tested through rigorous clinical trials and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” explains Dr. W. Pierre Robert, III, a pediatrician in Grapevine.  “Claims that vaccines are unsafe have been thoroughly discredited.  As a parent, I make sure my children receive all of their vaccines at the right age, and I want my patients to have the same protection.”

“As pediatricians, we encourage parents to ask questions about their child’s healthcare,” says Dr. Damien Mitchell, a Dallas pediatrician.  “If you have questions about a vaccine – why it’s necessary or whether it is safe – please ask us! We are here to address any concerns you have and make sure your child is protected from preventable illnesses.” 

Childhood Vaccine Schedule

Children begin receiving immunizations shortly after birth and continue to do so throughout childhood. 

The following are standard guidelines developed and issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If your child has an underlying health condition, your physician may recommend forgoing a vaccine or receiving additional vaccines. 

The information below has been updated for 2024 and includes the new recommended RSV vaccine for infants.  Vaccines are listed in chronological order based on the age they are administered.  Texas law requires that school children who attend public, charter or private schools be current on several of these vaccines – these required vaccines are noted accordingly. 

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV-mAb)
Vaccine ScheduleBirth to 6 months,
depending on mother’s RSV vaccination history & timing of birth
Why It’s ImportantRSV is a respiratory illness that can cause serious problems for infants.  Whether or not the mom got the vaccine – and when in pregnancy she got it – factors into the timing of the vaccine for the baby.   The time of year the baby is born is also a factor, as RSV is more prevalent in the fall and winter. 

Hepatitis B (HepB) – Required in Texas
Vaccine ScheduleBirth AND
1-2 months AND
6-18 months
Why It’s ImportantHepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver.  It is spread through the blood and other bodily fluids.   

Rotavirus (RV1, RV5)
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months
6 months (depending on type of vaccine)
Why It’s ImportantRotavirus causes gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the digestive system.  It can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever and pain. 

Diphtheria, tetanus & acellular pertussis (DTaP) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months AND
6 months AND
15-18 months AND
4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantDiphtheria, 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, spreading through the air and direct contact. 

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months AND
6 months AND
12-15 months
Why It’s ImportantHib disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis, pneumonia and death.  Before the Hib vaccine, Hib disease was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis infections in children younger than 5.  It spreads through air and direct contact. 

Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV15, PVC20)– Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months AND
6 months AND
12-15 months
Why It’s ImportantPneumococcal 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.  This vaccine protects against the types of bacteria that cause the most severe pneumococcal illnesses. 

Inactivated poliovirus (IPV) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months AND
6-18 months AND
4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantPolio 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 (IIV4)
Vaccine Schedule6 months AND
Every year thereafter
Why It’s ImportantThe flu causes fever, muscle pain, extreme fatigue and headache.  Young children are especially susceptible to complications, such as pneumonia and even death.

Updated every year, flu vaccines are available beginning in September.

COVID-19 (1vCOV-mRNA, 1vCOV-aPS)
Vaccine Schedule6 months and older: 1 or 2 doses of the updated 2023-2024 vaccine
Why It’s ImportantCOVID-19 is still around, continually updating itself with new variants.   

The updated vaccine reduces the likelihood of getting COVID and reduces the severity of the symptoms if you do get it.     

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule12-15 months AND
4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantAll three of these diseases spread through air and direct contact.   

Measles causes a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and a rash that spreads all over the body.   

Mumps causes flu-like symptoms and swollen salivary glands.   

Rubella produces symptoms similar to measles.   

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 largely eliminated the disease. 

Chickenpox: Varicella (VAR) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule12-15 months AND
4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantChickenpox is highly contagious and spreads through air and direct contact. It causes 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) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule12-23 months (two doses, six months apart)
Why It’s ImportantHepatitis A attacks the liver.  It generally spreads through accidental ingestion of microscopic amounts of fecal matter.

Tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis (Tdap) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule11-12 years
Why It’s ImportantTdap provides continued protection from the same diseases as the DTaP. 

Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Vaccine Schedule11-12 years (girls and boys)
Why It’s ImportantThis vaccine is important for protecting children later in life.  HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer and can also lead to several types of cancers that affect both men and women.  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. 

Meningococcal (MenACWY) – Required in Texas
Vaccine Schedule11-12 years AND
16 years
Why It’s ImportantThere 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. 

Optional for Young Adults

Meningococcal B (MenB-4C, MenB-FHbp)
Vaccine ScheduleYoung adults 16-18 years old who wish to receive the vaccine, after consultation with a physician; 2-dose series
Why It’s ImportantThe MenB vaccine provides additional protection against a form of meningitis.

“By ensuring your children have all recommended immunizations, you’ll provide them with long-term health benefits and protect them from preventable diseases,” says Dr. Smita Mahapatra, a pediatrician in Frisco.  “It’s an easy, safe step that will pay health dividends now and for years to come.”

This article has been reviewed and approved by a panel of Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians. 

This article contains information sourced from:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Texas Department of State Health ServicesThe Mayo Clinic

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