12 Vaccines Recommended for Your Young 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.

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 these vaccinations for a child to attend.

There are 12 vaccines on the required list of most elementary and high schools that every parent should know about.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Young girl getting an immunization

LWA / Dann Tardif / Getty Images

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 given by intramuscular (IM) injection in three doses. It is a recombinant vaccine produced through DNA technology. There are three hepatitis B vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Trade Name Doses Age Route Type
Engerix-B 3 12 months to 18 years IM Recombinant
Heplisav-B 2 18 years and over IM Recombinant
Recombivax HB 3 Birth to 19 years IM Recombinant

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 1 and 6 months.
  • Recombivax: The first dose is given a birth followed by doses at 1 and 6 months.
  • Heplisav-B: This vaccine is given in two doses after a primary dose of Engerix or Recombivax. The first dose is given 1 month after Engerix or Recombivax, followed by a second 6 months later.

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 via a dropper. There are two vaccines approved by the FDA that involve either two or three doses. It is a live attenuated vaccine, meaning that it is made with a live virus that has been weakened and cannot cause disease.

Brand 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 2, 4, and 6 months. 
  • Rotarix: Two doses are given at 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 Vaccine

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 a bacterium that can enter the body through a deep cut or wound that becomes contaminated.
  • Pertussis, also know 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 breathe. The cough causes a literal whooping sound.

Types and Administration

The vaccine is delivered by IM injection in five doses. Young children typically have the injection in the front of the thigh, while older children get it in the upper arm.

It is an inactivated vaccine, meaning that 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

Timing

Both 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.

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

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 antigen of which "boosts" the immune response to weaker antigen (in this case, the inactivated Hib virus).

The vaccines are each inactivated vaccines delivered by IM injection.

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. The first dose is followed by a second dose 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. The first dose is followed by a second dose 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. The first dose is followed by a second dose two months later. A final booster dose is given between 12 and 15 months of age.

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

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 as well as ear infections, meningitis, and sepsis.

Types and Administration

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

Trad 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 whether the child's risk factors, the vaccination will either involve one or two series 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 Six 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.

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.

MMR Vaccine

The measle, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases. Among them:

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral infection spread by direct contact and air droplets. 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 the characteristic swelling of the face and jaw. It can also lead to orchitis, an infection of the testicles that lead to 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 on 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 by the subcutaneous route.

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).

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 occurs mainly via the fecal-oral route as well as oral-anal sex. 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 by IM injection. 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 first dose is delivered between 12 and 24 months of age, followed by a second IM dose 6 to 18 months later.

The hepatitis A vaccine is also available in a combination vaccine called Twinrix that vaccinates against hepatitis B as well.

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine protects against the influenza virus. Influenza is a highly contagious airborne virus that can spread rapidly through schools if annual vaccinations are not adhered to.

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 of which is a live vaccine delivered via a nasal spray (FluMist). The others, which are all inactivated vaccines, are given by IM 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 Inactivated
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 two, older adults, and anyone who is immunocompromised.

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, tents, 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 before progressing 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
MedQuadfi 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 with a booster shot at age 16. Other children at increased risk can also be vaccinated. Those with immunodeficiency or under the age of 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 two doses separated by 1 month, while Trumenba is delivered in two doses dose separated by 6 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.

HPV Vaccine

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

While some infections will clear on their own with no long-term consequence, 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 two 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

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 15 should get a second dose 6 to 12 months later. People vaccinated between the ages of 15 and 26 should receive three doses—starting with a first dose, a second dose 1 to 2 months later, and a third dose 6 months later.

A Word From Verywell

Vaccinations work. Despite claims of harm from anti-vaccination advocates, their benefits 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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Article Sources
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