Vaccine Schedule for Children: How to Protect Your Child

This article was reviewed by our Baystate Health team to ensure medical accuracy.

Amy L. Pelletier, DO Amy L. Pelletier, DO View Profile
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Now that we have come out of the pandemic, the public emergency has ended, and life is getting back to as normal as it can for everyone, healthcare professionals are encouraging parents and guardians to get their children back on track for annual vaccinations and wellness visits. While there have been gaps for some, it is not too late to return to a regular schedule.

Children who are not vaccinated on schedule are at risk of getting sick and of spreading illnesses to others who are not protected.

Dr. Amy Pelletier, DO, Pediatrics, says vaccines are given on a schedule for the number one reason of protecting children from preventable disease.

Why do children get vaccinated so early?

“Experts designed the schedule so that children get protection when they need it, and the doses are timed so the vaccine itself can have the best effect. All vaccinations are mandatory for school except for HPV,” Dr. Pelletier explains.

She says babies are very vulnerable to disease, which is why they are given vaccines early in life.

“If the vaccine schedule is spread out or if babies miss well-child visits and do not receive vaccines on schedule, it will take longer for babies and children to be protected from diseases,” she continues.

Vaccinations have been protecting children and adults from diseases including smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and chickenpox for a very long time. The reason some people aren’t familiar with those illnesses is because of vaccines and their effectiveness.

Why are vaccines important?

“All vaccines are important for the protection of children,” Dr. Pelletier says. “When children are not vaccinated, they have a much higher risk of having serious infections that can be prevented. Unvaccinated children may also undergo invasive tests to determine cause of illness when they are not vaccinated.”

Dr. Pelletier says not only does not being vaccinated affect the child, but it can also put others at risk, as well. When enough of the community is vaccinated, it makes disease less likely to spread.

“This is important for those who aren’t fully vaccinated, such as newborns, and those who can’t be vaccinated, such as children who are taking medications that suppress the immune system,” she says. “There are minimal risks of being vaccinated. The risk of a complication of the disease is always higher than the risk of the vaccine.”

How do vaccines work?

Illnesses are caused by germs (bacteria or viruses) that invade or infect the body. The body’s immune system fights the infection with white blood cells. Vaccines use antigens – molecules present on all viruses – to train the immune system to identify threats, produce antibodies, and learn.

According to the CDC, the first time the body encounters a germ, it can take several days to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease.

Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize and fight viruses or bacteria. They develop immunity—the ability to resist an infection—by imitating infections.

Dr. Pelletier says the message to parents and guardians is that they should return to regular schedules of vaccination and wellness visits for their children so that those children, as well as people around them, are protected.

Why are well-child visits important?

Well-child visits are as important as keeping vaccine schedules up to date. The visits are essential so that healthcare providers can track a child’s growth and development milestones, discuss with parents or guardians any concerns they have about their child’s health and development, and give their vaccines on time to prevent serious illness. A well-child visit gives the provider the opportunity to assess all of the child’s physical and emotional needs and decide on any tests or procedures that might be needed, and to discuss everything from nutrition to sleep schedules to eating schedules.

Vaccine Schedule for Children

Age Vaccines
Birth Hepatitis B
2 Months Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (Dtap), Polio, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus
4 Months Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (Dtap), Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus
6 Months Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (Dtap) Polio, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate, and Rotavirus
12 Months Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Varicella, Hepatitis A
15 Months Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (Dtap), Haemophilus influenzae type b, Pneumococcal conjugate
18 Months Hepatitis A
4 Years Diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (Dtap) Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Varicella
9 Years HPV (2 series vaccine given 6 months apart)
11 Years Tdap and Menactra
16 Years 2nd Menactra
Annually Flu vaccine and Covid vaccine

For more information on these vaccinations recommendations, please visit the CDC.

If your child is due – or overdue – for a well-child visit or vaccines, call your pediatrician today to book an appointment. Getting back on track ahead of the new school year will protect your child, your family, and your community from preventable illnesses.

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