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Vaccines: Make Sure the Kids (and You) Are Protected!

Even though it is still 100+ degrees outside, the start of the school year is once again upon us. As the kids enjoy the last days of their summer break, sleeping in and hanging out with friends, now is the time for parents to make sure their children’s vaccines are up to date.

This is important to do every year, but it’s especially important this year. Due to the disruption caused by the pandemic over the last two years, some kids have fallen behind on vaccines. It’s understandable how that happened – due to COVID-19, people didn’t want to go out unless necessary. In addition, most schools have been virtual for much of the last two years, so getting vaccinated perhaps didn’t seem like such a priority. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that there was a decline in the level of vaccinated schoolchildren from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year.

With the worst of the pandemic behind us – hopefully for good – now is the time to get fully up to date on vaccines for the whole family. And don’t worry – if your child missed a vaccine scheduled for last year, it’s easy to get back on track. Just make an appointment with your pediatrician or other primary care provider to get caught up.

Why Vaccines are Important

Vaccines work by bolstering the human body’s natural defenses. 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

Have you ever wondered why no one is required to get the smallpox vaccine anymore? It’s because smallpox – a deadly disease that killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century alone – has been completely eradicated, thanks to widespread and effective vaccination efforts all over the world. Just like the smallpox vaccine was effective, so are the immunizations we have today for a myriad of serious illnesses.

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 is dangerous because of the false information it perpetuates. 

Vaccine myths can be traced back to a discredited British physician who published a paper in the late 1990s that claimed a certain vaccine could cause autism in children. His “research” was soon labeled as fraudulent and subsequently discredited by the scientific and medical community. But with the ability of information to spread quickly online – even when it is false – some parents mistakenly believed that a vaccine/autism link existed. Social media has further enabled this misinformation to spread far and wide.

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. If you have questions about vaccines, please speak to your doctor or our child’s pediatrician – they are there to answer any questions you have.

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, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 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 very 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 2022. 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.

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. It is spread through the mouth.

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, spread through the air and direct contact.

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 under the age of 5. It spreads through 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 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 Schedule12-15 months AND 4-6 years
Why It’s ImportantChickenpox 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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. 


Vaccine Schedule6 months – 4 years old: 3-dose or 2-dose series 5-17 years old: 2-dose series, plus 1 booster dose at least 5 months after completing initial vaccine series
Why It’s ImportantWhile COVID-19 has been more serious in adults, children can get COVID-19 and some may suffer serious health issues as a result. The FDA has approved and the CDC is recommending the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older.
Additionally, children ages 5 and older should receive 1 booster dose if it’s been 5 months since they completed their initial vaccine series.

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 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.

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. 

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. 


Who Needs It & WhenEveryone ages 6 months and older Initial adult series is two doses, a few weeks apart If it has been 5 months since completing your initial series, you are due for a booster If you are 50 years of age or older and it has been at least 4 months since your first booster, you should receive a second booster
Why It’s ImportantCOVID-19 has killed more than 1 million Americans in less than three years. While the virus is more under control now than ever before, it is still spreading in the community. It creates a risk for serious illness for those who are unvaccinated. While vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, they are much less likely to experience hospitalization, serious illness or death.


Who Needs It & WhenEveryone, once a year
Why It’s ImportantAt 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 & WhenAny 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 ImportantPertussis 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 & WhenOnce 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 ImportantUnlike 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 & WhenAdults at age 50; two doses, 2-6 months apart
Why It’s ImportantShingles 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 & WhenAdults at age 65
Why It’s ImportantSenior 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 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

Texas Minimum Vaccine Requirements for Students Grades K-12

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