Vaccinations for Baby: Protections and Timing

Vaccinations provide your infant with the antibodies they need to develop immunity to some of the world's most dangerous diseases including polio, hepatitis, diptheria, and pneumococcal meningitis.

While vaccines may not be a particularly pleasant experience for your baby, they are a necessary step towards protection and peace of mind for children and parents alike.

Typical Vaccination Schedule for Infants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that babies receive the following vaccinations or immunizations:

  1. DTap (Diptheria, Tetanus, & Pertussis) Vaccine: 5 doses administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.
  2. Hepatitis B Vaccine: 3 doses administered at birth, 1-2 months, and 6-18 months.
  3. Polio Vaccine (inactivated poliovirus): 4 doses administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years.
  4. Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) Vaccine: 3* or 4 doses administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
    *With one type of Hib vaccine, your baby does not need to get vaccinated at 6 months of age
  5. Pneumococcal Vaccine: 4 doses administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
  6. Rotavirus Vaccine: 2 or 3 doses administered orally (not a shot) at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.
    *With one type of rotavirus vaccine, your baby does not need to get vaccinated at 6 months of age
  7. Flu (influenza, IIV) Vaccine: administered annually, usually in 1 or 2 doses, beginning around 6 months.

Typical Vaccination Schedule for Toddlers & Older Children

  1. MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) Vaccine: 2 doses administered at 12-15 months, and 4-6 years.
  2. Varicella (chicken pox) Vaccine: 2 doses administered at 12-15 months, and 4-6 years.
  3. Hepatitis A Vaccine: 2 doses administered at least 6 months apart between the ages of 12-23 months.
  4. Meningococcal (MCV4) Vaccine: 2 doses administered at 11-12 years, and 16 years.
  5. HPV Vaccine (females only): 2 to 3 doses, depending on age of first dose. Administered as early as 9-14 years.

Risks Associated with Vaccines

Although some of the vaccinations listed above have mild side effects, the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks as they protect against serious diseases.

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Most side effects are mild and consist of tenderness, redness, and/or swelling at the site of the injection.  Your child may also develop a mild fever. A mild fever does not indicate that your child is sick; a fever indicates that your child's immune system is learning to fight off infections. To learn more about how to handle fevers following vaccines, the Seattle Children's Hospital is a great resource.

Approximately 25% of children (1 out of 4 children) will experience some side effects with vaccines.

Rarely (less than one in a million vaccines), a child may have an allergic reaction to a substance in a vaccine.  Allergic reactions usually occur soon after the shot is administered, although they could also occur several hours after the shot.

If your child has breathing problems, wheezing, hives, dizziness, fainting, an irregular heartbeat, or weakness, you should call your healthcare provider immediately.

Other rare reactions include high fevers or seizures that occur within a few days of the vaccine.  Call your healthcare provider immediately if your child has these symptoms. 

Links Between Vaccines and Autism

There is no link between vaccinations and autism.

A series of highly-controlled studies have convincingly demonstrated that there is no identifiable increase in risk of developing autism or autism spectrum disorders as a result of receiving childhood vaccinations (e.g., Madsen & Vestergaard, 2004; Mrozek-Budzyn, Kieltyka, & Majewska, 2009; Thompson et al., 2007).

There is also evidence that the rates of autism have not fallen in response to the elimination of Thimerosal (mercury) in several areas, including California (Schechter & Grether, 2008).

In fact, some of the most recent studies have demonstrated that there is an increased risk of developing autism among children who are not vaccinated with the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) or the single measles vaccine, relative to those who are vaccinated (Mrozek-Budzyn et al., 2009).

Scientific References

Madsen, K. R., & Vestergaard, M. (2004). MMR vaccination and autism: what is the evidence for a causal association? Drug Safety, 27, 831-840.

Mrozek-Budzyn, D., Kieltyka, A., & Majewska, R. (2009). Lack of association between measles-mumps-rubella vaccination and autism in children: a case control study. Pediatric Infectious Disease, 29, 397-400.

Schechter, R., & Grether, J. K. (2008). Continuing increases in autism reported to California's developmental services system: mercury in retrograde. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65, 19-24.

Thompson, W. W., Price, C., Goodson, B., Shay, D. K., Benson, P., Hinrichsen, V. L., Lewis, E., Eriksen, E., Ray, P., Marcy, S. M., Dunn, J., Jackson, L. A., Lieu, T. A., Black, S., Stewart, G., Weintraub, E. S., Davis, R. L., DeStefano, F., & Vaccine Safety Datalink Team. (2007). Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years. New England Journal of Medicine, 27, 1281-1292.

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