12 Vaccines Recommended for Your Child

Types, Administration, and Vaccination Schedules

Children in the United States are vaccinated according to a schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Vaccinations prevent contagious diseases from causing infections and spreading through communities.

Young girl getting a vaccine

LWA / Dann Tardif / Getty Images

Although the list can vary between states, there is a standard roster of vaccinations that most children will need to get before they turn 18. Schools, camps, sports teams, and universities typically require documentation of certain vaccinations for a child to attend.

There are 12 vaccines recommended for all children that every parent should know about. They are listed according to the age of the first dose, as recommended in the CDC and AAP immunization schedule.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver. It is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact, blood (typically the result of sharing needles), or from mother to child during delivery.

Hepatitis B can cause acute illness, liver failure, and cancer of the liver.

Types and Administration

The hepatitis B vaccine is injected into muscle in three doses. This type of injection is called an intramuscular (IM) injection.

There are two hepatitis B vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children.

They are called recombinant vaccines, which refers to how they're manufactured. A bit of DNA from the hepatitis B virus is inserted into cells in a lab, which then produce a protein from the virus. The vaccine contains that purified protein, which stimulates an immune response in the body.

Additionally, there are two hepatitis B combination vaccines approved for the pediatric population.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Engerix-B 3 Birth to 19 years IM Recombinant
Recombivax HB 3 Birth to 19 years IM Recombinant
Pediarix (DTaP, Hepatitis B, Polio) 3 6 weeks to 6 years IM Inactivated
Vaxelis (DTaP, Hepatitis B, Polio, Hib) 3 6 weeks to 4 years IM Inactivated

Timing

The timing of the hepatitis B vaccine series varies by the vaccine:

  • Engerix: The first dose is given at birth followed by doses at ages 1 and 6 months.
  • Recombivax: The first dose is given at birth followed by doses at ages 1 and 6 months.
  • Pediarix: The first dose is given at 2 months followed by doses at 4 and 6 months.
  • Vaxelis: The first dose is given at 2 months followed by doses at 4 and 6 months.

Rotavirus Vaccine

Rotavirus infection is caused by a virus that spreads from person to person through contaminated food or direct physical contact.

The infection causes severe watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, and dehydration.  In some cases, this can lead to severe acidosis and death.

Types and Administration

The vaccine is a liquid placed into a baby's mouth using a dropper. There are two vaccines approved by the FDA that involve either two or three doses.

The rotavirus vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning that it is made with a live virus that has been weakened and cannot cause disease.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Rotarix 2 6 to 24 weeks Oral Live attenuated
Rotarteq 3 6 to 32 weeks Oral Live attenuated

Timing

The timing of the rotavirus vaccine series varies by the vaccine:

  • RotaTeq: Three doses are given at ages 2, 4, and 6 months. 
  • Rotarix: Two doses are given at ages 2 and 4 months.

Even with vaccination, a child might still get rotavirus. However, if an infection were to occur, the symptoms would almost invariably be milder.

DTaP and Tdap Vaccines

The diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against three different infections. Among them:

  • Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads from person to person through air droplets or by touching objects like toys or towels. Diphtheria causes a sore throat, fever, difficulty breathing, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Tetanus is a potentially life-threatening infection that causes painful muscle contractions. Also known as lockjaw, the infection is caused by bacteria that can enter the body through a deep cut or wound that becomes contaminated.
  • Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can spread from person to person through air droplets. The illness causes uncontrollable coughing fits that make it difficult to take a breath. The cough causes a literal whooping sound.

The Tdap vaccine also protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, though it is recommended for use as a booster shot after the initial DTaP vaccination.

Types and Administration

The DTaP vaccine is injected into the muscle in five doses. Young children typically receive the injection in the front of the thigh, whereas older children get it in the upper arm.

It is an inactivated vaccine, meaning that it involves a whole-killed virus that cannot cause disease. There are two DTaP vaccines approved by the FDA.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Daptacel 5 6 months to 6 years IM Inactivated
Infanrix 5 6 months to 6 years  IM Inactivated

The Tdap booster vaccine is also an inactivated vaccine that is injected into the muscle. The FDA has approved two Tdap vaccines.

Trade Name    Doses  Age  Route Type 
 Boostrix  1  10 years and older  IM Inactivated
 Adacel  1  10 years to 64 years  IM Inactivated

Timing

Both DTaP vaccines follow the same schedule. The first three injections are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. The fourth dose should be given between 15 and 18 months, and the final dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

One dose of the Tdap booster vaccine is recommended for adolescents age 11 to 12 years.

There are combination vaccines available that pair DTaP with either the polio vaccine (Kinrix, Quadricel); the polio and hepatitis B vaccines (Pediarix); the polio and Haemophilus influenza type b vaccines (Pentacel); or the polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type b vaccines (Vaxelis).

Hib Conjugate Vaccine

Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) is a bacterial infection transmitted from person to person through air droplets.

Despite its name, Hib doesn't cause flu. Rather, Hib infection can lead to potentially severe complications, including meningitis in the brain, cellulitis on the skin and underlying tissues, and epiglottitis in the upper airways.

Types and Administration

There are three Hib conjugate vaccines approved by the FDA. Conjugate vaccines contain both a weak and strong antigen, the stronger of which "boosts" the immune response to the weaker antigen (in this case, the inactivated Hib virus).

The vaccines are each inactivated vaccines injected into muscle.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
ActHIB 4 2 months to 5 years IM Inactivated
Hiberix 4 6 weeks to 4 years IM Inactivated
PedvaxHIB 3 2 months to 71 months IM Inactivated

Timing

The Hib vaccination series either involve three or four doses as follows:

  • ActHIB: The vaccine is typically started at 2 months of age. A second dose is given two months later and a third dose two months after that. A final booster dose is given between 12 and 15 months of age.
  • Hiberix: The vaccine can be started as early as 6 weeks of age. A second dose is given two months later and a third dose two months after that. A final booster dose is given between 12 and 15 months of age.
  • PedvaxHIB: The vaccine is typically started at 2 months of age. A second dose is given two months later. A final booster dose is given between 12 and 15 months of age.

The Hib vaccine is also available in the combination vaccines, Pentacel and Vaxelis.

Pneumococcal Vaccines

Pneumococcal disease, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, spreads by direct contact with saliva. Once an infection occurs, the bacteria can invade different parts of the body, causing pneumonia, ear infections, meningitis, and sepsis.

Types and Administration

The CDC recommends two types of pneumococcal vaccinations, depending on a child's health:

  • Prevnar 13 (PCV13): This vaccine is injected into muscle and protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all children.
  • Pneumovax (PPSV23): This vaccine is either injected into muscle or via a subcutaneous (SC) injection (that is, under the skin). It protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Two doses may be needed for children with immunodeficiency, kidney failure, leukemia, or other serious health conditions.
Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Pneumovax 2 2 years and over IM Inactivated
Prevnar 13 4 6 weeks and over SC Inactivated

Timing

Depending on a child's risk factors, one of these vaccinations will be given as follows:

  • Prevnar: Recommended for all children, the vaccine is delivered in four doses at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age, with the final injection given between 12 and 15 months.
  • Pneumovax: For children at risk of severe illness, the vaccine is delivered in two doses. The first is given at least eight weeks after the Prevnar series is complete, with the second given five years later.

Poliovirus Vaccine

Poliovirus is a highly contagious virus rarely seen today due to widespread vaccination efforts. It is spread by contact with contaminated surfaces, respiratory droplets, and oral-fecal transmission.

Polio infection can cause severe upper respiratory symptoms as well as poliomyelitis, a debilitating condition characterized by weakness or paralysis of an arm and/or leg on one side of the body.

Types and Administration

There is one polio vaccine approved for use in the United States. It is given either by IM or subcutaneous injection in the arm or leg.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Ipol 4 6 weeks and older IM or SC Inactivated

The oral polio vaccine, a live vaccine still used around the world, is no longer approved for use in the United States due to the very small risk that it may trigger poliomyelitis in some children.

Timing

The first two doses of the polio vaccine are given at 2 months and 4 months of age. Another is given between 6 months and 18 months, and the final injection is given between 4 and 6 years.

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine protects against the influenza virus. Influenza is a highly contagious virus that is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person either coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Flu symptoms in children include fever, chills, tiredness, cough, and muscle aches, the duration of which can last for days or even weeks. Sometimes, the flu can cause severe complications, including dehydration, febrile seizures, meningitis, and sepsis.

Types and Administration

There are six influenza vaccines that are approved for use in school-aged children. One is a live vaccine delivered via a nasal spray (FluMist). The others are all inactivated vaccines given by intramuscular injection.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Afluria 1-2 5 years and older IM or jet injector Inactivated
Fluarix 1-2 6 months and older IM Inactivated
Flucelvax 1-2 4 years and older IM Cell-culture
FluLaval 1-2 6 months and older IM Inactivated
FluMist 1-2 2 years to 49 years Nasal spray Live attenuated
Fluzone 1-2 6 months and older IM Inactivated

Timing

The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for all people, including children from the age of 6 months.

Children between 6 months and 8 years would get two doses separated by at least four weeks for their first vaccination. Thereafter, they would get an annual dose.

FluMist is only recommended for healthy children 2 years of age and older.

As a live vaccine, FluMist is avoided in anyone with a weak immune system, including children under 2, older adults, and anyone who is immunocompromised.

MMR Vaccine

The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases. They are:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral infection spread by direct contact and airborne aerosolized particles. In addition to causing rash, upper respiratory symptoms, and spots inside the mouth, measles can lead to potentially life-threatening pneumonia and encephalitis in some people.
  • Mumps is another viral infection spread by direct contact, saliva, and air droplets. Mumps causes fever, headache, fatigue, and characteristic swelling of the face and jaw. It can also lead to orchitis, an infection of the testicles that causes sterility.
  • Rubella, also known as German measles, is caused by a virus that spreads through direct contact and air droplets. Rubella can cause rash, flu-like symptoms, and cervical lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes of the throat and neck). Congenital rubella syndrome, which is passed from a mother to a child, can cause birth defects and miscarriage.

Types and Administration

There is one MMR vaccine approved for use in the United States. It is a live vaccine delivered under the skin.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
M-M-R 2 2 12 months and older SC Live attenuated

Timing

The first dose of the vaccine is administered between the ages of 12 and 15 months. The second dose is given when the child is between 4 and 6 years.

There is also a combination vaccine called ProQuad that vaccinates against MMR and varicella (chickenpox).

Varicella Vaccine

The varicella vaccine prevents chickenpox. Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection spread by direct person-to-person contact and air droplets. It causes flu-like symptoms, rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

In severe cases, chickenpox can cause pneumonia, encephalitis, bleeding problems, and long-term hearing loss. Adults are more likely to experience serious complications than children.

Types and Administration

There is one varicella vaccine approved for use in the United States. It is a live vaccine delivered by subcutaneous injection.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Varivax 2 12 months and older SC Live attenuated

Timing

The first dose of the varicella vaccine is given between 12 and 15 months of age, and a second is delivered between 4 and 6 years.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

Hepatitis A is a viral liver infection that causes fever, extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, darkened urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Hepatitis A transmission mainly occurs through the fecal-oral and oral-anal sex routes. Usually, the infection lasts for several weeks and resolves on its own, but it may cause severe dehydration in children or adults who are frail.

Types and Administration

There are two hepatitis A vaccines approved by the FDA. Both are inactivated vaccines delivered into the muscle. Though interchangeable, the vaccines differ slightly in their composition:

  • Havrix: This vaccine, approved for use in 1995, contains a preservative and a higher concentration of inactivated virus per dose.
  • Vaqta: This vaccine, approved in 1996, does not contain a preservative and has a lower concentration of inactivated virus per dose.
Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Havrix 2 12 months to 18 years IM Inactivated
Vaqta 2 12 months to 18 years IM Inactivated

Timing

The Havrix and Vaqta vaccines are both given in two doses. The second dose is given six months after the first dose.

HPV Vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against some of the high-risk strains of HPV. These viral strains are linked to cervical cancer, anal cancer, and other types of cancer. Roughly 40 out of 200 HPV strains are sexually transmitted.

While some HPV infections will clear on their own without long-term consequences, others can cause changes to infected cells that, over time, can lead to cancer.

Types and Administration

There is one HPV vaccine currently approved by the FDA. It is a recombinant vaccine that prevents nine of the high-risk HPV strains linked to cancer.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Gardasil-9 2-3 9 years to 45 years IM Recombinant

A second HPV vaccine called Cervarix was voluntarily withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2016 due to low consumer demand. Unlike Gardasil-9, Cervarix only prevented HPV strains 16 and 18 (the types most commonly linked to cancer).

Timing

The HPV vaccination is recommended for use in the following groups:

  • All girls and boys between 11 and 12 years
  • Children as young as 9 if they are at risk of HPV infection
  • Anyone up to the age of 26 who has not been properly vaccinated

Most people over 26 are not advised to get vaccinated as they will likely have already been infected with HPV. Even so, vaccination can be considered up to the age of 45 on a case-by-case basis after careful consultation with a doctor.

Children who receive their first dose before age 15 should get a second dose six to 12 months later. People vaccinated between the ages of 15 and 26 should receive three doses—a first dose, followed by a second dose one to two months later, and finally a third dose six months later.

Meningococcal Vaccine

The meningococcal vaccine protects against strains of Neisseria meningitides, bacteria that can cause severe meningitis. Teenagers and young adults who live in close quarters (such as dormitories or cabins) are at increased risk of infection.

Bacterial meningitis can be very serious, often manifesting with fatigue, fever, and headache in the early stages. It progresses to neck stiffness, seizures, and coma as the condition advances. By this stage, death occurs in around 10% of cases.

Types and Administration

There are five meningococcal vaccines given by IM injection in the arm or thigh. Depending on the type, they may require one to three doses.

Three of the vaccines are inactivated conjugated vaccines, while the other two are recombinant vaccines.

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Bexsero 2 10 years to 25 years IM Recombinant
Menactra 2 9 months to 55 years IM Inactivated
MenQuadfi 1 2 years and older IM Inactivated
Menveo 2 2 months to 55 years IM Inactivated
Trumenba 2-3 10 years to 25 years IM Recombinant

Timing

The indication for meningococcal vaccination varies by the vaccine type:

  • Menactra and Menveo are recommended for all children 11 to 12 years old with a booster shot at age 16. Other children at increased risk can also be vaccinated. Those with immunodeficiency or who are under age 2 would receive two doses separated by two months.
  • Bexsero and Trumenba may be given in addition to an inactivated vaccine for people 16 to 23 who are at increased risk of meningococcal disease. Bexsero is given in two doses separated by a month, whereas Trumenba is delivered in two doses separated by six months. During a meningitis outbreak, three doses of Trumenba are recommended.
  • MenQuadfi is a newer vaccine delivered in a single dose that can be used in children 2 and older. It can also be used as a booster shot in people 15 and older who are at continued risk of meningococcal disease.

A Word From Verywell

Vaccinations work. Despite claims of harm from anti-vaccination advocates, the benefits of vaccination overwhelmingly outweigh the potential risks. Vaccines not only prevent your child from getting potentially serious diseases, but they also reduce the spread of infection throughout communities.

If your child is not being vaccinated due to vaccine costs and/or a lack of health insurance, financial assistance may be available.

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31 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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