How to Get Back on Track with Your Child’s Vaccination Schedule
With the coronavirus pandemic causing shutdowns across the United States and the world, it is no surprise that families have been postponing going to the doctor for their routine well-child visits. But skipping your routine vaccine schedule actually increases the risk of your child getting and spreading infectious diseases. The last thing we need is an outbreak of yet another infectious disease if it can be prevented by getting vaccinated on time.
The CDC has posted guidance emphasizing the importance of routine, preventative health care and immunization for children. This is especially true for children up to 24 months of age, when many childhood vaccines are recommended. While the schedule of recommended immunizations may vary, it is extremely important for all caregivers to talk with your pediatrician about which vaccines your child will need when.
Here is a breakdown of the general recommended vaccine schedule by age:
- HepB: Ideally, the first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine is given within 24 hours of birth, but kids not previously immunized can get it at any age. Some low birth weight infants will get it at 1 month or when they're discharged from the hospital.
- HepB: Second dose should be given 1 to 2 months after the first dose.
- DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine
- Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
- IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
- PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
- RV: Rotavirus vaccine
- Meningococcal vaccines: This might be given to kids as young as 8 weeks old who have some immune disorders that cause higher risk for a meningococcal infection, such as meningitis.
- Hib: This third dose may be needed, depending on the brand of vaccine used in previous Hib immunizations.
- RV: This third dose may be needed, depending on the brand of vaccine used in previous RV immunizations.
- Influenza (Flu): The flu vaccine is recommended every year for children 6 months and older. Kids younger than 9 who get the flu vaccine for the first time (or who have had only 1 dose of the vaccine in the past) will get it in 2 separate doses at least a month apart. Kids younger than 9 who have had at least 2 doses of flu vaccine previously (at any time) will need only 1 dose. Kids older than 9 need only 1 dose. The flu vaccine is especially important for kids with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, heart problems, sickle cell disease, diabetes, or HIV, who are at risk for health problems from the flu.
- MMR: Measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles) vaccine.
- Chickenpox (varicella)
- HepA: Hepatitis A vaccine is given as 2 shots at least 6 months apart. It can be given as early as 6 months of age to babies who will travel to a place where hepatitis A is common, but they will still need this routine vaccination after their first birthday. It's also recommended for older kids who did not get it in the past.
- Pneumococcal vaccines: May be given to kids ages 2 and up who have conditions that affect their immune systems, such as asplenia or HIV infection, or other conditions, like a cochlear implant, chronic heart disease, or chronic lung disease.
- HPV: Human papillomavirus vaccine, given in 2 shots over a 6- to 12-month period. It can be given as early as age 9. For teens and young adults (ages 15–26), it is given in 3 shots over 6 months. It's recommended for both girls and boys to prevent genital warts and some types of cancer.
- Tdap: Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster.
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: A booster dose is also recommended for all children at age 16.
- Meningococcal B vaccine (MenB): The MenB vaccine might be given to kids and teens in 2 or 3 doses, depending on the brand. Unlike the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which is recommended, the decision to get the MenB vaccine is made by the teens, their parents, and the doctor.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should remind us all of the importance of all immunizations. Even as the coronavirus continues to upend our lives, the need to protect children against other serious, vaccine-preventable disease is vital. If you are behind in your child’s scheduled vaccinations, please contact your health care provider as soon as possible. It is essential to catch up now, because once social distancing requirements are lifted, unvaccinated children will be more vulnerable to infectious diseases, and local health departments may be inundated with people trying to quickly get vaccinated.
If you have questions about how to get back on track with your child’s vaccine schedule, ask your health care provider or contact your state or local health department. They can give you guidance about the best way to catch up. Remember staying informed through reliable health care and medical resources is so important for your child, you and your family.
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Chris Hoye, Principal-The Gateway School of Carteret, NJ