August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance that highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.
As a law firm that’s represented numerous clients in matters of medical malpractice – and many mothers and babies in cases of preventable birth injuries – we support healthy choices and healthy pregnancies, which includes immunization.
Growing Up With Vaccines: What Parents Should Know
As noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), vaccination is a highly effective, safe, and easy way to keep your family healthy.
From pregnancy through childhood, vaccination helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. These vaccines have been tested extensively to ensure they’re safe and effective for children to receive at recommended ages.
Per the CDC’s Vaccine Guide, parents should know what to expect when it comes to keeping their children up to date with vaccines:
- Pregnancy: Mothers share everything with their babies during pregnancy, which is why vaccination is an important step in protecting their health. By staying current with vaccines before and during pregnancy, a mother can pass along protection to protect her baby from various diseases during the first few months of life, including whooping cough (Tdap vaccine) and the flu. Vaccines before pregnancy can also protect against serious disease during pregnancy, including rubella, which can cause miscarriages and birth defects.
- The First Year: Vaccination plays a big role in providing children a healthy start during their first year. In fact, babies need their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth. More than one dose will be required for many vaccines to build high enough immunity to prevent disease, boost immunity that weakens over time, ensure people who did not get immunity from a first dose are protected, and protect against germs that change over time, such as the flu. Recommended vaccines during the first year can protect against haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), Polio, pneumococcal disease, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, rotavirus, and more.
- Ages 1 Through 3: As your child grows, recommended vaccines can help protect them against a number of diseases, includingmeasles, mumps, rubella (MMR), chickenpox (varicella), hepatitis A, and additional doses of vaccines administered during the first year. If vaccines were missed or if a child fell behind on the recommended schedule during their first year, they can catch up during their infant and toddler years.
- Ages 4 Through 6: As your child enters the age where they begin school, they’ll need additional doses of some vaccines and a flu vaccine each year. Some schools may require a certificate of immunization for a child to enroll in school. You can speak with your doctor about recommended vaccines or about getting caught up with any missed vaccines.
- Ages 7 Through 10: During a child’s elementary school years, the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine by the end of October each year. If your child has had all recommended vaccines through age 6, additional vaccines aren’t necessary from ages 7 through 10. However, if they missed vaccines, a doctor can help you ensure they get caught up.
- Ages 11 Through 12: Adolescents need vaccines to extend protection and immunity as childhood vaccines wear off and to provide protection against infections before exposure risks increase. During preteen years, the CDC recommends three essential vaccines to protect kids as they enter adulthood: human papillomavirus (HPV), meningococcal conjugate, and Tdap.
- Ages 13 Through 18: During a child’s teen years, parents should continue to schedule annual doctor visits and speak with doctors about catching up on recommended vaccines or any needed vaccines if they travel outside of the U.S. The CDC recommends an additional dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine at 16 and an annual flu vaccine. Parents can also speak with doctors about serogroup B meningococcal vaccine if they wish and about making sure their child’s immunization record is up to date as they head to college.
- Into Adulthood: Establishing healthy habits through childhood, including regular vaccination and annual doctor visits, can help your child stay healthy from birth to the time they leave the nest. All adults, however, can benefit from staying up to date with vaccines, including annual flu vaccines, a Td vaccine every 10 years, a shingles vaccine at age 50 or older, and one dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) followed by one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) at age 65 or older. Adults under 65 with certain health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease) may need one or both of these vaccines.
The CDC has an easy Vaccine Guide to help parents better understand the importance of on-time vaccination through childhood, as well as a recommended schedule for vaccines.