Page header image

Immunizations for Prevention

Immunizations protect your child against several serious, life-threatening diseases. Your child should have shots according to the following schedule. If your child's shots are not up-to-date, call your health care provider's office for an appointment.

Routine Immunization Schedule for Infants and Children

       Age of Child          Immunization 
   birth to 2 weeks      Hep B 
           2 months      DTaP, IPV, Hib, Hep B, PCV7, Rotavirus
           4 months      DTaP, IPV, Hib, PCV7, Rotavirus
           6 months      DTaP, Hib, Hep B, PCV7, Rotavirus
     6 to 18 months      IPV
6 months to 5 years      Influenza (yearly)
    12 to 15 months      MMR, Hib, Var, PCV7
    12 to 18 months      DTaP, Hep A 
    18 to 36 months      Hep A
       4 to 6 years      DTaP, IPV, MMR 
     11 to 12 years      Tdap, MCV4, HPV (for girls) 
   Explanation of abbreviations: 
   DTaP  = diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) 
   Hib   = Haemophilus influenzae type b 
   Hep A = Hepatitis A
   Hep B = hepatitis B
   HPV = Human Papilloma Virus
   MCV4  = meningococcal conjugate vaccine, 4-valent
   MMR   = measles, mumps, rubella 
   IPV   = inactivated poliovirus 
   Tdap  = tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis 
   Var   = chickenpox (varicella) 
   PCV7  = pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, 7-valent

Reference:  American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on 
            Infectious Diseases, Recommended Childhood 
            Immunization Schedule, January 2006. Web Site: 

Descriptions of Immunizations

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP/Tdap) vaccine

Whooping cough is a very dangerous disease, especially for babies. The risk of suffering and death caused by whooping cough is far greater than the possible side effects of the shot. A child who has not been immunized against pertussis has a chance of 1 in 3000 of getting whooping cough. In contrast, a child who gets the shot is estimated to have a chance of 1 in 2 million or less of having neurological damage from the vaccine.

If your child is between 11 and 18 years of age and has had a tetanus (Td) booster, he or she may need to have a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) booster as well. Ask your health care provider if your child needs this shot.

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine

Outbreaks of measles have made it necessary for children to have 2 MMR vaccines. They should have the first shot when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old. These diseases are nearly gone from the U.S. However, they will come back if children are not fully vaccinated. If your child has not received 2 MMR vaccines after the age of 12 months, call your health care provider's office during office hours.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

Haemophilus influenzae is a type of bacteria that causes several life-threatening diseases in young children (such as meningitis, epiglottitis, and pneumonia). Before the vaccine was available, over 3800 children per year in the US became mentally retarded, blind, or deaf, or got cerebral palsy as a result of the disease. The Hib vaccine does not protect against flu and meningitis caused by viruses.

Hepatitis B vaccine (Hep B)

Vaccination against hepatitis B prevents this type of hepatitis and the severe liver damage that can occur 20 or 30 years after a person is first infected. More than 5000 adults die each year in the U.S. from hepatitis-related liver cancer or cirrhosis. The younger the age when the infection occurs, the greater the risk of serious problems.

If you have an older child who was not vaccinated against hepatitis B as an infant, ask your provider whether he or she should have the shots. Your child needs a total of 3 hepatitis B shots.

Rotavirus vaccine

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe infection in the intestines, usually causing diarrhea. Most cases occur between 6 months and 2 years of age. The rotavirus vaccine given early in life will prevent severe rotavirus disease, which can cause dehydration or death.

Polio vaccine

The polio vaccine protects children from this now rare but crippling disease. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is recommended.

Chickenpox (Varicella) vaccine

The chickenpox vaccine is usually given between the ages of 12 and 18 months, but it can be given to older children if they have not had the vaccine or the disease yet. Children age 13 or older should get 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart.

This vaccine is 70% to 90% effective in preventing chickenpox. If your child had the vaccine, but still gets chickenpox, it will be a milder form of the disease. By getting the chickenpox vaccine, you can reduce the chance of missed work and school, skin infections, medical costs, and getting shingles later in life.

Pneumococcal (PCV7) vaccine

The PCV7 vaccine protects against the 7 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis. The vaccine also prevents some ear infections caused by pneumococci.

Routine use of PCV7 is now recommended for infants and toddlers. Some children (up to age 5) who have a serious illness may benefit from the vaccine.

Human Papilloma Virus vaccine

HPV causes 90% of genital warts and 70% of cervical cancers. Very strong evidence indicates that the HPV vaccine will prevent both of these health conditions. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends the HPV vaccine for females aged 11 to 12. It is approved for females 9 to 26 years old. Three doses of the vaccine are given: an initial dose, another 2 months later, and the last dose 6 months after the first dose.

Influenza vaccine

It is recommended that all healthy children age 6 months to 5 years old get the influenza vaccine. Those less than 2 years old are at a greater risk of getting severely ill or needing to go to the hospital because of the flu. The influenza vaccine is also recommended each year for children ages 6 months and older if they have certain medical risk factors. Caregivers of young children should also get the influenza vaccine each year. The vaccine can be given to anyone to avoid getting the flu.

Other Vaccines

Hepatitis A vaccine

The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children over 1 year of age. It should also be considered for older children and teens in some states and regions, and for certain people at high risk. Talk to your health care provider or local public health department for more information.

Meningococcal vaccine

Meningococcal disease can often be prevented in adolescents and young adults by a vaccine. Meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all 11 to 12-year olds, teens starting high school, or young adults before they move into college dorms.

Reasons Not To Vaccinate

Talk to your provider before getting your child vaccinated if:

  1. Your child had an allergic reaction to a previous vaccine.
  2. Your child has a serious neurologic disease.

    The pertussis vaccine (DTaP) should not be given if a child has a serious neurologic disease. Your child can still have the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine without the pertussis vaccine.

  3. Your child has immune system problems.

    Children with immune systems that are weakened by certain diseases or medicines should not get live virus vaccines (such as chickenpox, oral polio, or MMR). A live virus vaccine can cause the actual disease if the immune system is very weak.

  4. Your child has egg allergies.

    Children who have a severe allergy to eggs should not receive the influenza vaccine. However, children who are allergic to eggs can receive all other routine immunizations. Although the measles and mumps vaccines are grown in chick cells, the egg proteins are removed from these vaccines. The vaccines can be given without having your child tested for an egg allergy.

Unwarranted Reasons Not to Vaccinate

Some children in the U.S. have not received all of the recommended immunizations. The following conditions are NOT reasons to delay or avoid immunizations.

Your child CAN still get immunizations if:

  • Your child had soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site after a previous DTaP shot.
  • Your child had a fever of less than 105F (40.5C) after a previous DTaP shot.
  • Your child has a mild illness such as a cold, cough, or diarrhea without a fever.
  • Your child is recovering from a mild illness such as a cold, cough, or diarrhea.
  • Your child has recently been exposed to an infectious disease.
  • Your child is taking antibiotics.
  • Your child was premature.
  • Your child is breast-feeding.
  • Your child has allergies (unless it is an egg allergy).
  • Your family has a history of seizures or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD and Robert Brayden, MD.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-10
Last reviewed: 2006-02-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image