Vaccinations are vital for your baby’s health and well-being. They provide immunity from many harmful diseases. Before the introduction of vaccines, hundreds of thousands of Americans (often babies and children) were affected by these diseases, sometimes with serious illness, lifelong side effects, and even death. Routine vaccination has saved thousands of lives every year in our country.
It’s important to stay on top of your baby’s vaccine schedule to keep them as safe as possible. Several major health organizations have agreed on the best vaccine schedule for children. Premature babies fall under the same schedule, although some vaccines, like the one for hepatitis B, might be delayed.
Many parents worry about vaccine safety. That’s normal. Keep in mind that vaccines are very safe. There’s usually no reason to postpone or avoid vaccines.
You may have read reports in the news or social media that link the MMR vaccine with autism. Scientists have studied this question very carefully and there is no scientific evidence that the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine, causes autism.
Serious side effects to vaccines are very rare. In fact, most children only have mild reactions, such as:
- Soreness or mild swelling at the injection site
- Fussiness or irritability
- Mild fever
If you have any concerns about your child’s recommended vaccines, talk with your clinician.
Types of immunizations
Many vaccines are given in combination shots, which reduces the number of times your baby will receive a needle prick.
This shot protects against Hepatitis B, a serious liver disease. The vaccine is given in three doses, starting with one given shortly after birth in the hospital. The other doses are given between 6 to 15 months.
It’s important to protect your baby against polio, a disease that affects the central nervous system. All infants receive four doses: at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months.
Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTap / Tdap)
These vaccines protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough). Young children should receive a dose of the DTaP vaccine at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and at 4-6 years. At age 11-12 years, children should receive a dose of the Tdap vaccine, which is formulated to protect children of this age.
Haemophilus influenzae type B
Haemophilus influenzae type B, or Hib, causes pneumonia or meningitis, a life-threatening bacterial infection of the tissues that cover the brain. These bacteria may also cause serious skin and bone infections.
Children need three or four doses of the Hib vaccine starting when they’re 2 months old. The vaccine series is finished by the time they are 15 months old.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)
Pneumococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause ear, blood, and lung infections, and meningitis. Each child receives four doses of the PVC13 vaccine: at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months.
Infection with rotavirus may lead to serious diarrhea and even severe dehydration. You can protect your child with the rotavirus vaccine, which is given by mouth, in two or three doses. Your baby will receive these shots by the time they are 6 months old.
Flu viruses are constantly changing, so flu shots are different each year. Everyone 6 months or older should get an annual flu shot. Children under 9 years of age need two doses the first year they get the vaccine to ensure they have an immune response that will protect them. Children 9 years or older only need one dose.
Hepatitis A is a serious disease that affects the liver. Starting at age 1, children receive two doses of this vaccine at least six months apart.
Measles, mumps, rubella
The MMR vaccination protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. They are a group of infectious diseases that can cause fever, rash, and sometimes serious consequences such as brain damage or birth defects. All children get two doses: the first at 12 to 15 months, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years. It may be combined with the chickenpox vaccine in a combination MMRV shot.
If there is a measles or mumps outbreak in your community, your child may need an additional dose.
The varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine protects against chickenpox. Babies should get the vaccine after their first birthday. One shot is given between 12 and 15 months, and a second is given when the child is 4 to 6 years old. If the child has had the disease before they have received the vaccine, then they do not need to receive the vaccination.
The chickenpox vaccine may be given separately or may be given as part of the combination vaccine, MMRV, which protects against chickenpox as well as measles, mumps and rubella.
Meningococcus, also called Neisseria meningitidis, is a type of bacteria that can cause meningitis, sepsis, arthritis, and other severe infections, especially in teenagers and young adults. The first dose is routinely given at 11-12 years, and the second dose is given at 16 years. It can be given to children as young as 2 months who have conditions that put them at higher risk, including asplenia, sickle cell disease, HIV infection, and people with complement deficiencies.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a virus transmitted through sexual contact that can cause cancers, including of the cervix, anus, and throat. The HPV vaccine can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by HPV. It can be given at 9 years (usually 11 or 12 years) and is recommended for everyone through 26 years of age. The vaccine is administered in two doses 6 to 12 months apart.
For the most up to date information on COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for children, visit our COVID-19 vaccination page. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently approved for children ages 5 and up. Research is still underway to determine appropriate doses for children younger than 5. All people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should get the COVID-19 vaccine as they are safe and effective and provide the best protection against the virus for both you and your baby. Vaccination of pregnant people builds antibodies that can be passed to the baby, and those antibodies might protect against COVID-19.1
Some children are at higher risk for certain health problems and might benefit from other vaccines. Ask your clinician if your child needs any additional vaccines.
Keeping immunization records
Accurate immunization records help you keep track of your child’s health. Remember that many day cares and schools require proof of vaccinations. Your child might also need their complete vaccine record later in life.
At Kaiser Permanente, your child’s immunization record is kept on their electronic health record, which is easily accessed at any time through KP.org.
Your child’s clinician can review their vaccination records during office visits. It’s helpful to keep the printed records in a safe place, and not to throw them away.
You can keep track of when your child’s vaccines are scheduled through KP.org and the KP app. You can also use calendar reminders to help you stay on track. You may also opt to receive email or text message reminders from your clinician’s office for when your child’s vaccinations are due.