Baby's Vaccination Schedule Guide

Today with the rapid development in the healthcare sector, we have witnessed a closer elimination of common childhood infections. All thanks to the baby vaccines that help us bat off these viruses with ease. They help keep our little ones protected and healthy in the longer run. To make sure that your little one is also protected from childhood diseases, here’s everything you need to know about the vaccination schedule for babies. Keep on reading to find out why newborn vaccines are important, followed by some of the most common childhood diseases and the life-saving vaccines that are developed to fight them.

How Do Baby Vaccines Work?

Vaccines are shots that contain harmless versions of the same germs that cause a specific disease. These germs are either dead or weakened to the point that they don’t do any harm. The vaccine, once it’s injected, stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies. A person who is vaccinated will then develop immunity to that specific disease without ever having contracted it. Unlike medications that cure diseases, vaccines help prevent them in the first place. When it comes to your baby or toddler, through routine immunisations, your little one is protected from serious diseases like polio, whooping cough, and others. Young infants are at the greatest risk, so it’s important that babies and toddlers get all the recommended immunisations before their second birthday. Some vaccines require more than one dose. Here are some situations in which additional doses may be needed, depending on the type of vaccine:

  1. For inactivated vaccines, one dose doesn’t provide enough immunity, so follow-up doses are required. The Hib vaccine is a good example of this type.

  2. Immunity may wear off after time for certain vaccines. In this case, a booster shot is needed to raise immunity levels again. The DTaP vaccine is a good example of this. The booster shot needed for older children and adults is the Tdap vaccine.

  3. Some live vaccines require more than one shot so that the individual can develop the best immune response, which means developing plenty of antibodies to fight off a possible infection. This is the case for the MMR vaccine, for example.

  4. The flu vaccine is recommended for children over six months old as well as for adults. Children between six months and eight years old who have never been vaccinated against the flu need two doses in the first year they’re vaccinated. After that once per year is enough. This is because flu viruses change from year to year, and the effectiveness of the vaccine wears off in time.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Vaccines are very effective. In the rare instance that your vaccinated baby does get the disease he was vaccinated for, the symptoms will likely be much less severe than they would have been if your child wasn’t vaccinated.

Vaccines have helped save millions of lives and continue to help prevent the spread of disease. Ensuring your child gets all of her immunisations helps prevent her from catching certain potentially deadly diseases and helps reduce the risk of transmission in the community more broadly.

Side Effects Of Baby Vaccines

Sometimes, the area where the shot was injected may become red or a little swollen, but these side effects don’t last long. Your baby may also be a little fussy afterwards and/or may sleep a little longer in the days after receiving a shot.

When an individual is vaccinated, the body thinks it’s being invaded by an organism, triggering an immune response to fight the possible infection and build up defenses. This is why your baby may experience these minor side effects.

In the very rare case that your baby experiences a more serious reaction, such as a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, a rash, or seizures, call her doctor immediately.

What Is an Immunisation Schedule?

An immunisation schedule is basically a predetermined schedule of administering vaccinations to children. Every year, medical professionals and top disease experts review the recommended vaccines that will help protect children from diseases, and when each vaccine should be given for maximum effectiveness.

Experts determine when is the best time to administer the vaccine to children based on two important factors:

  1. The age at which a child’s immune system can provide the best protection after vaccination.

  2. The earliest possible time the vaccine can be administered based on the highest risk by age. This is why some vaccines are given when your baby is an infant, and others are scheduled later in childhood, even as late as the teenage years.

Don’t be surprised if your child is scheduled to get a shot that he’s already had: Some vaccines need to be given in multiple doses for optimal protection. This is reflected in the immunisation chart below under “dose number.” If you have any questions about the immunisation schedule and what is right for your little one, consult the doctor, who will be able to give you all of the information and guidance you need.

Recommended Immunisation Schedule

Listed below are the vaccinations recommended by the CDC for children from birth to 23 months:

AgeVaccineDose Number
Birth
 HepB (hepatitis B)1 of 3
1–2 months
 DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)1 of 5
 HepB2 of 3
 Hib (haemophilus influenzae Type B)1 of 3 or 4
 IPV (polio)1 of 4
 PCV13 (pneumococcal infections)1 of 4
 RV (rotavirus)1 of 2 or 3
4 months
 DTaP2 of 5
 Hib2 of 3 or 4
 IPV2 of 4
 PCV132 of 4
 RV2 of 2 or 3
6 months
 DTaP3 of 5
 Hib3 of 3 or 4
 PCV133 of 4
 RV3 of 3
 Influenzaannually from 6 months old
6–18 months
 HepB3 of 3
 IPV3 of 4
12–15 months
 Hib4 of 4
 MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)1 of 2
 PCV134 of 4
 VAR (varicella)1 of 2
12–23 months
 HepA1 of 2
15–18 months
 DTaP4 of 5

 

Remember, your child will eventually need to have booster shots of certain vaccines starting around four years old (such as for DTaP, IPV, MMR, and VAR), as well as additional vaccines when she’s in her teenage years (such as Tdap, HPV [human papillomavirus], and meningococcal vaccine).

Can This Immunisation Schedule Change?

Since vaccines are always being improved and different brands of shots may require slightly different doses, your child’s doctor may recommend a slightly different schedule of shots for your baby. New vaccines are on the horizon, and this could also result in changes to this schedule. To be on the safe side, double-check with your child's doctor at each visit to make sure your baby or toddler is up to date.

Why It’s Important to Follow the Immunisation Schedule

It’s crucial that your child is protected from the diseases that vaccines help fight at the appropriate times. Sticking to the recommended immunisation schedule is important to ensure your little one becomes or remains protected. Skipping or putting off vaccinations until later can leave your child vulnerable to dangerous diseases that a vaccine could easily have protected her against. Some of these diseases can make your little one very sick, and may require hospitalisation; in some cases, the diseases may even result in death. Not vaccinating your child can also contribute to the spread of disease in your area.

What Is a Delayed Immunisation Schedule?

The immunisation schedule is the same for all children. However, there may be certain adjustments needed if your child has a weakened immune system, or if she’s taking certain medications that may weaken her immune system. Your child’s doctor will take into account your little one’s entire medical history when determining whether to give or delay a specific vaccination. In some cases, a shot can be delayed, or not given at all, if the doctor thinks this is the safest course of action for your little one.

How to Get Your Child Vaccinated

Your child’s routine vaccinations are typically planned and carried out by your child's doctor at the regular well-child visits. For example, your doctor can tell you which vaccines will be given at the current well-child checkup, at an upcoming checkup, or whether the vaccine may be given at another location — such as a health centre, local clinic, or a pharmacy — instead of at the physician’s office. Your doctor can also inform you whether the vaccines are covered under your personal insurance, depending on your situation. When going to the visit, it’s a good idea to bring a copy of your child’s vaccination records. This is especially important if you have changed doctors recently. If you don’t have the records, ask the doctor’s office, or your child’s daycare or school for a copy. If your child is sick the day of the appointment, make sure to let the doctor know. If the illness is mild, he may still be able to receive the vaccine; otherwise, the doctor may recommend vaccinating at another time.

How to Prepare Your Child for a Vaccination

If your little one is old enough to understand what’s going on, try describing the immunisation appointment and what’s about to happen. Offer assurance that even though the shot may hurt a little, the pain won’t last. Also, consider bringing along your child’s favourite toy or even a security blanket. This may help comfort her. During the appointment, you may be able to hold your child in your lap, which can offer additional comfort. Also, consider trying to distract him with a toy, a story, or pointing out things in the room. For a very young child, you might consider breastfeeding or bottle-feeding afterwards. Even swaddling may help comfort her especially if she’s crying after the shot. You may consider asking the doctor or the nurse who administers the shot if there are any steps you could take to help your child feel more comfortable. You may be told to have your child move his arm around after the vaccination, which can help reduce any pain or swelling.

The Diseases Vaccines Help Prevent

Here are brief descriptions of the diseases that vaccines are routinely given to help prevent:

Diphtheria

Diphtheria (the "D" in the DTaP vaccine) is a bacterial infection that can be spread via the droplets in the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. Symptoms can include a mild fever, sore throat, and chills. In some cases there may be nasal discharge, fatigue, and a thick coating on the throat. If left untreated, the infection can lead to difficulty swallowing, paralysis, and even heart failure. Adults receive another version of the vaccine called Tdap — an especially important vaccine for pregnant women because it ensures antibodies are passed onto the baby while still in the uterus, giving him some level of protection against pertussis (whooping cough) in the first few months of life until he is old enough to get immunised. Vaccination: The diphtheria vaccine is administered along with the vaccines for tetanus and pertussis (hence the DTaP acronym). Children should receive five doses altogether: at two months, four months, six months, sometime between 15 and 18 months, and finally the last one between four and six years of age.

Haemophilus Influenzae Type B

Hemophilus influenzae is a bacterial infection spread by coughing and sneezing. It can lead to pneumonia, meningitis (an infection of the brain lining), epiglottitis (the severe swelling of the throat), ear infections, and other serious infections.

Although the name may sound similar, it is not the same as influenza (a.k.a. “the flu”). The disease most often occurs in children between six months and five years old. Symptoms include fever, seizures, vomiting, and a stiff neck.

Vaccination: The first dose of the Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine (often shortened to Hib in the context of vaccines) is given at two months old with two or three more doses given in the following months.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver, which can cause fever, tiredness, jaundice, and loss of appetite. Most children younger than six years old who are infected with the disease have few or no symptoms, which means it may be hard to identify the illness at first. Hepatitis A is transmitted by close contact with an infected person or by eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. It is often spread in child-care settings.

Vaccination: The hepatitis A vaccine (HepA) is given in two doses at least six months apart starting when your child is between one and two years old. Older children and adults who haven’t yet been vaccinated are encouraged to do so.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral disease of the liver that can be very serious, even leading to liver damage or cancer. It’s spread through infected blood and bodily fluids. The disease can be passed from person to person if the healthy person comes into contact with the bodily fluids of the sick person. If a pregnant woman is infected with hepatitis B, she can pass the disease onto her baby at birth. To prevent this from happening, her newborn will be vaccinated within 12 hours of birth. Some who are infected may not show any symptoms, whereas others have symptoms that can last for several weeks. Symptoms include loss of appetite, jaundice, muscle pain, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Vaccination: The hepatitis B vaccine (HepB) is administered in three doses: the first at birth, the second at one to two months, and the third between six and 18 months.

Influenza

Known more commonly as “the flu,” influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that can be spread rapidly through coughing or sneezing.

It can be contracted easily through contact with an infected person, by sharing things like cups or spoons, or by touching contaminated surfaces and then transferring the droplets to the mouth or nose. This is why it’s so important that your little one has her hands washed regularly and that surfaces be disinfected often if someone in the home is sick.

Flu season usually goes from fall to spring and outbreaks are common among school-age children who haven’t been vaccinated. This is because children tend to touch things and then rub their eyes, nose, or mouth. Flu symptoms can last for a week or more, and may include a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, body aches, sore throat, cough, and runny nose. Complications from the flu can include pneumonia, dehydration, sinus problems, ear infections, brain dysfunction, and even death. Every year thousands of children under the age of five are hospitalised with the flu, which is why the flu vaccine is so important. Vaccination: The best way to prevent your little one from getting the flu is to ensure he gets the annual influenza vaccine in the late summer or early fall. Children aged six months or older should be vaccinated every year to stay protected.

Measles

Measles (the first "M" of the MMR vaccine) is a viral disease that produces a red or brownish blotchy rash, a cough, a runny nose, fever, or pinkeye. In rare cases, the infection can cause pneumonia or encephalitis (a brain infection). Young children may also develop an ear infection, croup, and diarrhoea.

The characteristic rash appears two to three days after the other symptoms and the rash may last for five to eight days.

Measles can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes; it can also be passed along through direct contact with fluids from an infected person's nose and mouth. Vaccination: The measles vaccine is administered along with the vaccines for mumps and rubella (MMR). A first dose is administered between 12 and 15 months, and a second dose between four and six years of age. If you’re travelling with your infant outside of the country, the first dose can be administered as early as six months.

Mumps

Mumps (the second "M" of the MMR vaccine) causes fever, headache, and swelling of the salivary glands on the sides of the face. The virus is spread through coughing and occurs most often in children who are between five and 14 years old.

Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, weakness, and loss of appetite. The contagious period lasts for about five days after the characteristic swelling of the salivary glands occurs.

In severe cases, mumps can lead to deafness, meningitis, or encephalitis.

Vaccination: The mumps vaccine is included with the measles and rubella vaccines (known together as MMR). The first dose is given between 12 and 15 months, and the second between four and six years of age. If you’re travelling internationally with your baby when he’s between six and 12 months, he should get the vaccination beforehand.

Pertussis

Pertussis (the "P" in the DTaP vaccine), commonly known as whooping cough, causes coughing and choking. The coughing spell is often followed by the characteristic "whoop" sound of the child trying to catch her breath. Vomiting afterwards is also common.

Caused by the pertussis bacteria, pertussis can lead to complications including pneumonia and convulsions. Very young unimmunised children are at the greatest risk and often need to be hospitalised if they become ill.

It’s recommended that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine (the version of DTaP for older children and adults) in the third trimester. This ensures that high levels of antibodies are passed onto the baby before birth. This creates protection from whooping cough in the first few months of life until the baby gets the first dose of the DTaP vaccine at two months old. Vaccination: The pertussis vaccine is administered along with the vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus (DTaP), with five doses given altogether. The first dose is given at two months, the second at four months, the third at six months, the fourth between 15 and 18 months, and the fifth between four and six years.

Pneumococcal Infections

The pneumococcus bacteria can cause pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis as well as ear, eye, and sinus infections. Infections can be spread through sneezing or coughing. Children who are very young don’t yet have fully developed immune systems and so, are most at risk.

Vaccination: The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) protects against 13 different types of pneumococcal bacteria. It’s usually administered to children in four doses: the first at two months, the second at four months, the third at six months, and the fourth between 12 and 15 months. Some children with chronic health conditions may receive a different vaccine.

Polio

Polio is a viral disease that causes fever, sore throat, nausea, headaches, and stiffness and weakness in the neck, back, and legs. In some cases, it can cause paralysis. Some children may recover from a mild case, but others may end up disabled for a lifetime.

The virus affects infants and young children more than any other age group. It’s spread by close contact with an infected person.

Vaccination: The polio vaccine (IPV) is administered in four doses before your child starts school. The first is given at two months old, the second at four months old, the third between six and 18 months old, and the fourth between four and six years old. This schedule may vary, especially if you’re planning to travel abroad with your child, so it’s best to ask your child’s doctor for personalised advice.

Rotaviral Gastroenteritis

Rotaviral gastroenteritis is an intestinal viral infection commonly known as the “stomach flu.” After one to two days of infection, symptoms can last for three to eight days and include watery diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and/or abdominal pain. In children younger than two, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration, a serious complication.

Infants and toddlers with the illness should be carefully watched for signs of dehydration such as decreased urination, dry mouth, reduced tears, and weight loss.

Children who have received the rotavirus vaccination usually do not get the illness or only exhibit a milder form of illness that does not lead to severe dehydration. Vaccination: The rotavirus vaccine (RV) is administered in either two or three doses, with a first dose at three months old, a second at four months old, and a possible third dose at six months old.

Rubella

Also known as German measles, rubella (the “R” of the MMR vaccine) is a viral illness that causes a pink rash, mild fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

The viral infection is spread through close contact with an infected person or contact with airborne particles. Those infected are contagious for up to seven days after the appearance of symptoms, and symptoms can last up to 21 days.

Vaccination: The rubella vaccine is included with the measles and mumps vaccines (known together as the MMR vaccine). A first dose is given between 12 and 15 months, and a second between four and six years. If you’re planning to travel overseas with your baby who is six months or older, she should get the first dose beforehand.

Tetanus

Tetanus (the “T” in the DTaP vaccine) causes headaches as well as serious and painful muscle tightening in the jaw, which is why it’s sometimes called "lockjaw."

The bacteria is present in soil, dust, and manure, and is transmitted through open wounds and cuts. Even a cut from a dirty garden tool can lead to tetanus. Tetanus isn’t contagious or spreadable from person-to-person contact.

Vaccination: The tetanus vaccine is administered along with the vaccines for diphtheria and pertussis (DTaP), which is done in five doses. The first dose is given at two months old, the second at four months old, the third at six months old, the fourth between 15 and 18 months, and the fifth between four and six years of age.

Varicella Zoster

Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella zoster virus.

Most children who have chickenpox develop a mild fever and itchy, blistering rashes on the scalp and body. The rash appears 10 to 21 days after the initial exposure to the virus. The contagious period begins a few days prior to the appearance of the rash and lasts for up to seven days.

The varicella vaccination protects against chickenpox as well as shingles much later in life.

Vaccination: The first dose of the varicella zoster vaccine (VAR) is given between 12 and 15 months, and the second between four and six years of age. Sometimes, the vaccine is given along with the MMR vaccine in a single shot, and in that case, it’s referred to as the MMRV vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Children start getting vaccines right after birth and continue to get vaccinated until 18 years of age, and beyond. Although the immunisation schedule can vary slightly from the below, routine vaccinations typically happen at

  • Birth
  • one to two months old
  • four months old
  • six months old
  • six to 18 months old
  • 12 to 15 months old
  • 12 to 23 months old
  • 15 to 18 months old
  • four to six years old
  • 11 to 12 years old
  • 16 to 18 years old
  • Annually in the case of the flu vaccine.

Children get routine immunisations for 16 different infectious diseases (in approximately 30 different shots, not including the annual flu vaccine) from birth until 18 years of age.

Between birth and two months old, a newborn will be immunised with six vaccines as part of the regular immunization schedule. These are:



  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)
  • HepB (hepatitis B)
  • Hib (haemophilus influenzae type B)
  • IPV (polio)
  • PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate)
  • RV (rotavirus).

The first vaccine your baby will receive as part of his immunisation schedule is HepB, which is short for Hepatitis B. This is administered soon after birth.

The Bottom Line

Adhering to an immunisation schedule helps you in keeping your little one away from at least 16 odd childhood illnesses, which otherwise could be quite harmful. At the same time, routine vaccination for children also plays an important role in safeguarding the entire community’s health.

Keep in mind that if you have any doubts related to the baby vaccines, you should consult with your baby’s doctor. In case, if your baby is dealing with a condition that may prevent him from receiving a vaccine, such as an immune deficiency, the doctor is the right person who can guide you to the best solution. Luckily, we are living in an era where your little one can be protected from many life-threatening diseases. All you need to do is make sure that your little one gets all the vaccinations he needs. This will keep him protected and develop in a healthy manner.

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