Immunizations Childhood

Childhood diseases have long been a concern of parents and doctors alike. The list of the most common illnesses is a clear indicator of the significance of this issue. From birth, children receive vaccinations to protect against some of the common and more dangerous of these.

Childhood Immunizations: An Overview

  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis): 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-18 months, 4-6 years, 11-12 years.
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella): 12-15 months, 4-6 years.
  • Varicella (chicken pox): 12-18 months, or any age after if never had chickenpox.
  • Hepatitis A: only recommended for children at risk.
  • Hepatitis B: Mother not hepatitis B positive: birth-2 months, 1-4 months, 6-18 months.
    Mother hepatitis B positive: within 12 hours of birth, 1-2 months, 6 months.
  • Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b): 2 months, 4 months, (6 months), 12-15 months.
  • Polio: 2 months, 4 months, 12-18 months, 4-6 years.
  • Pneumococcus: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12-15 months.

The DTaP Vaccine

The DTaP is actually three diseases rolled into one immunization: diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis. DTaP is the newest version of the vaccine and the only one children now receive in the U.S. It contains only those portions of the pertussis bacterium needed for immunity.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial disease that most commonly leads to fever and sore throat. In serious cases, the upper airway can become obstructed and make breathing impossible. Other complications include heart toxicity and paralysis of the arms and legs. Approximately five percent of diphtheria cases result in death. Receiving the full DTaP vaccination series provides 95 percent protection.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, results from the production of a bacterial toxin that causes muscle spasms and paralysis. The classic feature of this disease is paralysis of the muscles of the face and mouth which cause the jaw to “lock” making it impossible to swallow. Approximately thirty percent of tetanus cases result in death. Receiving the full DTaP series provides 100 percent protection.

Pertussis, also called whooping cough or the “100-day cough,” is a severe bacterial respiratory illness that can make it nearly impossible for an infant to breath, eat or drink. Approximately 0.5 percent of whooping cough cases result in death. Receiving the full DtaP series provides about eighty percent protection, and those that do contract the bacteria after being immunized will generally have milder symptoms.

Approximately half of children vaccinated with DTaP will not experience any side effects. Of those who do, the majority will have only a mild reaction, which includes soreness at the site of injection, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, irritability, and sleepiness.

The MMR Vaccine

Measles is a viral disease that causes fever, cough and a characteristic rash. Measles can also cause pneumonia, ear infection, encephalitis, and seizures. It causes death in approximately 0.3 percent of cases. Receiving the full MMR vaccination series provides about 95 percent protection.

Mumps is a virus that affects the salivary glands which results in the classic swelling of the face, almost always on both sides. It can also cause fever and headache. Some cases result in deafness or inflammation of other organs in the body, including the pancreas (pancreatitis), brain (encephalitis), lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and testicles (orchitis). A very few cases result in death. Receiving the full MMR series provides about 95 percent protection.

Rubella, or German measles, is typically not a worry in childhood. But receiving the vaccine protects from contracting the rubella virus later in life when it can be dangerous, particularly in pregnant women. Infection with German measles during pregnancy can result in miscarriage of severe birth defects. Receiving the full MMR series provides about 95 percent protection.

The most common side effects of the MMR are a mild fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. It may cause joint stiffness or seizure. Very rarely will a serious allergic reaction occur.

No Connection Between MMR and Autism

While researchers believe that genetics is one of the factors contributing to autism they are not absolutely certain what exactly causes the condition. What they do know is this: the MMR vaccine or any other vaccine does not cause autism. In fact, avoiding the use of MMR, based on circumstantial evidence, could result in outbreaks of these diseases. More about autism.

Other Recommended Vaccines

Chicken pox, is caused by the varicella virus. While chicken pox is generally a mild disease, complications can occur in newborns, immunocompromised individuals and adults. Childhood immunization for chicken pox also helps protect against shingles, the reactivation of the virus during adulthood in those who developed chicken pox as a child. The vaccine is currently recommended for children over one year who have not yet had chicken pox.

Hepatitis B vaccination, first licensed in 1981, is now recommended for all infants and provides up to 95 percent protection. The treatment schedule consists of three injections within the first two years of life.

Hib protects against Haemophilus influenza type b, a potentially life-threatening bacterium that can cause several diseases including meningitis, difficulty breathing due to epiglottitis, pneumonia, and bacterial arthritis. Deaths caused by these diseases are five percent for meningitis, nine to eighteen percent for epiglottitis, and about five percent for pneumonia. Receiving the full Hib series provides about 95 percent protection. Most children will experience no side effects, but when side effects do occur, they are mild and include soreness or redness at the site of injection, and fever.

HPV, the Human Papillomavirus, which causes genital warts and cervical cancer, is now preventable. In June 2006, the FDA approved the first HPV preventive vaccine, Gardasil® manufactured by Merck