The introduction of immunizations has led to a major reduction in many childhood illnesses and has even eradicated many infectious diseases from the United States.
Below is a list of the vaccine-preventable diseases currently included on the CDC schedule or recommended to parents today.
Chickenpox causes an itchy rash of blisters, fever, and fatigue. The disease can be serious and even life-threatening in babies, children, and those with weakened immune systems. Complications such as skin infections, dehydration, pneumonia, and encephalitis can occur. Currently, 2 doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine are recommended for children, with 1 dose administered at 12-15 months and 1 dose administered at 4-6 years.
The diphtheria toxin, caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria, can cause trouble breathing, heart problems, and nerve damage. Diphtheria can be a very serious illness, especially in children younger than 5 years old. In fact, around 20% of children who get diphtheria will die. Immunization against diphtheria is included in the DTaP shot and is currently administered in 5 doses at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years. An additional dose of Tdap is administered at 11-12 years of age.
The hepatitis A virus typically causes a fever, loss of appetite, stomach pain, and fatigue. In some cases, it can lead to severe liver disease. Children under the age of 6 typically don’t feel any symptoms, while older children and adults may experience symptoms for as long as 6 months. 2 doses of the hepatitis A vaccine are typically given, with 1 dose given sometime between 12-23 months of age, and another dose following 6 months after the first.
Hepatitis B infection can cause mild acute illness or a chronic lifelong infection that can lead to serious health problems and even liver cancer. Infants and young children typically do not show any symptoms. However, the virus can remain active in the body for the rest of their life. Three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine are typically given, with 1 dose at each of the following ages: shortly after birth, 1-2 months, and 6-18 months.
Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
Hib disease is a serious illness caused by the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria that can cause lifelong disability and even death. The most common types of Hib infection are meningitis and pneumonia. Babies and children younger than 5 years old are most at risk and often require extensive hospitalization and treatment. Three to four doses of the Hib vaccine are typically given with 1 dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months (for some brands), and 12-15 months.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses that infect about 13 million people, including teens, every year. HPV is spread through sexual activity. In some cases, HPV infections can lead to certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer. Immunization against HPV is recommended between the ages of 11-12 in 2 doses approximately 6-12 months apart.
More than 7,000 kids are hospitalized each year due to infection with the flu virus and resulting complications (such as pneumonia). Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches. The flu virus spreads rapidly and kills more than 100 children each year. Although not an official part of the vaccine schedule, annual immunization against the flu is highly recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
Measles is a respiratory disease that can cause a rash, fever, and diarrhea. In rare cases, it can be deadly or lead to complications, especially in babies and young children. Measles is more common in countries outside the U.S. but still spreads among travelers, which leads to occasional outbreaks. Immunization against measles is included in the MMR vaccine and is administered in 2 doses around the age of 12-15 months and again around ages 4-6.
Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. Although not very common in the United States, infections can still occur, and children and teens are at increased risk. The most common types of meningococcal infections include infections of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and infections of the bloodstream. Currently, 2 doses of the meningococcal shot are recommended for preteens and teens.
Mumps is a contagious viral disease that is mild in most cases but can lead to complications such as meningitis, deafness, or encephalitis. Immunization against mumps is included in the MMR vaccine and is administered in 2 doses around the age of 12-15 months and again around ages 4-6.
Although largely eradicated in the U.S., polio is a potentially serious viral disease that can lead to lifelong paralysis. Currently, 4 doses (at 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years) of the polio shot are recommended as the best form of prevention against polio.
The pneumococcus bacteria can cause serious and even deadly infections like meningitis or pneumonia. Children under the age of 2 are at the highest risk, and treatment with antibiotics is not as effective as it used to be. The pneumococcal shot is typically administered in 4 doses at the age of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
Rotavirus is a viral infection that can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting in babies and young children. Children may run a fever or become dehydrated, which can be very dangerous for infants. Two or Three doses of the rotavirus vaccine are typically administered in your child’s first 2-6 months of life in the form of oral drops — not a shot.
Rubella (German Measles)
Rubella is a viral illness that is usually mild and may present with a fever and a rash. Complications in children are not common, but in rare cases, brain infections and other issues can occur. Rubella is not common in the United States but can be acquired during travel abroad. Immunization against rubella is included in the MMR vaccine and is administered in 2 doses around the age of 12-15 months and again around ages 4-6.
Tetanus is a serious disease caused by a toxin produced by the Clostridium tetani bacteria. Tetanus can cause extremely painful muscle contractions and stiffness, breathing problems, or paralysis and can even become deadly. Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, tetanus is not spread from person to person but rather from exposure to the bacteria through breaks in the skin (such as stepping on a nail or getting bitten by an animal). The tetanus bacteria is found in soil, dust, and manure. Immunization against tetanus is included in the DTaP shot and is currently administered in 5 doses at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and again at 4-6 years. An additional dose of Tdap is administered at 11-12 years of age.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping cough is a respiratory illness caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. It can cause violent coughing fits and can quickly turn serious or even deadly in babies and young kids. Although the number of deaths due to whooping cough has dropped from around 8,000 per year before the vaccine to less than 20 today, outbreaks do still occur. Immunization against pertussis is included in the DTaP shot and is currently administered in 5 doses at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and again at 4-6 years. An additional dose of Tdap is administered at 11-12 years of age.
If you have any questions or concerns about childhood immunizations, schedule an appointment today with one of our board-certified pediatricians.