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Vaccines: Essential Protection for Children

Attention, parents!

If you could – with a few simple steps – significantly reduce your children’s risk of developing serious illnesses, illnesses that could cause them weeks of pain and suffering, potentially long-lasting health complications and even death, would you do it?

Yes, of course you would!

The good news is you have the power today to do just!  All you have to do is make sure your children get all their recommended vaccines. 

Back to School Means Get Vaccinated

August is a great time to make sure children are caught up on their vaccines.   Schools require students to be up to date on several vaccines.  So, as you’re working through your list of back-to-school errands like haircuts, new clothes and school supply shopping, add a visit to your children’s pediatrician to ensure they are current on all their immunizations. 

How Vaccines Protect Us

Vaccines supercharge the human body’s natural defenses.  After a vaccine, certain cells in our body will know how to fight a particular infection if they encounter it.  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.

Declining Vaccination Rates: A Big Problem

To provide protection across the population, a large percentage of people must be vaccinated.  Generally, public health experts say 95% of the population should be immunized to prevent the recurrence and spread of disease – this is sometimes called “herd immunity.” 

Unfortunately, vaccination rates have declined somewhat the last few years.  We see this trend in North Texas: data from the Texas Department of State Health Services show that for the 2022-23 school year, only 91.81% of Tarrant County kindergartners were immunized for diphtheria and pertussis and only 92.37% were protected from mumps, measles and rubella. 

Girl giving thumbs up after getting a shot

Why have vaccination rates declined?  First, the COVID-19 pandemic caused some people to get behind on their vaccines.  It’s understandable how that happened – due to COVID-19, people didn’t want to go out unless necessary.  Plus, schools were conducting classes virtually, so getting vaccinated probably didn’t seem as important.  The good news is, it’s easy to get caught up. 

The second reason is more concerning.  Through rampant misinformation that spreads easily online, some people have come to believe that their kids should not be vaccinated.  This is false – and dangerous. 

“Vaccines are rigorously tested and have repeatedly been proven to be both safe and effective over the decades,” says Dr. Destiny Wilson, a pediatrician with offices in Dallas and Mesquite.  “If you have questions about vaccines, please talk to your child’s pediatrician – we are here to address your concerns.” 

Immunization 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 2023.  Vaccines are listed in chronological order based on the age they are administered. 

Required Immunizations for Children in Texas Schools

Texas law requires that school children who attend public, charter or private schools be current on several vaccines:

Hepatitis B (HepB)
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.   
Diphtheria, tetanus & acellular pertussis (DTaP)
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. 
Polio: Inactivated poliovirus (IPV)
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.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
Vaccine Schedule12-15 months AND
4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantAll three of these diseases spread through air and direct contact.   

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.   

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)
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)
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.
Meningococcal (MenACWY)
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 dorms. 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 Schedule11-12 years
Why It’s ImportantTdap provides continued protection from the same diseases as the DTaP. 

Recommended Vaccines for Children & Young Adults

In addition to the above immunizations that are required by the state of Texas for all students, the following vaccinations are highly recommended by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the health care providers of Privia Medical Group North Texas. 

Rotavirus (RV, 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. 
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Vaccine Schedule2 months AND
4 months AND
6 months AND
12-15 months
Why It’s ImportantHib 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 younger than 5.  It spreads through air and direct contact. 
Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13) (Pneumonia)
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.  PCV13 protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause the most severe pneumococcal illnesses. 
Influenza (IIV): The Flu Vaccine
Vaccine Schedule6 months AND
Every year thereafter
Why It’s ImportantThe flu causes serious symptoms such as 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.
Vaccine Schedule6 months – 4 years old: 1 or 2 doses of the updated Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
5 years and older: 1 updated Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
Why It’s ImportantWhile COVID-19 is much less a problem than a few years ago, it is still here and can cause some people to become quite sick, including children.  The updated vaccine reduces the likelihood of getting COVID and reduces the severity of the symptoms if you do get it.      
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Vaccine Schedule11-12 years (girls and boys)
Why It’s ImportantHPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer and can also lead to several types of cancers.  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. 

Optional for Young Adults

Meningococcal B (MenB)
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.

Vaccines Lead to Healthy Children!

“Vaccines lead to healthy children and eventually, healthy adults,” says Dr. Bob Felty, a family medicine physician in Midlothian.  “Making sure our kids stay up to date on all recommended vaccines is one of the single most important things we can do to safeguard their health.  Remember, if you have questions or concerns about vaccines, please talk to your child’s doctor!”

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 Services

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