According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccines have reduced the number of infections from vaccine-preventable diseases by more than 90 percent. Many parents remain uncertain whether they should have their children vaccinated, partly due to the conflicting information and misinformation that circulates on websites and in the popular press. If you want to protect your child from a host of unpleasant and in some cases, life-threatening diseases, here are 10 vaccines that you should ensure that your child receives.
Haemophilus influenzae type b. The Hib vaccine protects against the serious disease that affects children under 5. Hib can cause bacterial meningitis, as well as pneumonia, and can be fatal. Before the vaccine was introduced, 20,000 children were infected with the disease every year in the United States.
Rotavirus. Rotavirus causes vomitting and severe diarrhea in babies and young children. Before the oral vaccine was introduced, the disease would cause 20 to 60 deaths in the United States every year. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the vaccine prevents 74-87 percent of all rotavirus illness episodes.
Pneumococcal disease. The streptococcus bacteria can cause blood infections and meningitis and is particularly dangerous in children under age 2. More than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria exist, and the current vaccine, PCV13, only protects against 13 of them, but targets the most dangerous, severe strains.
DTaP. The DTaP vaccine protects against three serious diseases. Diphtheria can cause paralysis and heart failure. Tetanus causes painful muscle tightening and kills 20 percent of those infected. Pertussis (or whooping cough) can cause seizures, pneumonia and brain damage. Children require five doses of this vaccine, at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months and then again between the ages of 4 and 6.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Both diseases can easily be spread from person to person and can cause serious liver problems. Children should be vaccinated against HAV between ages 1 and 2. The vaccine for Hepatitis B is administered at birth, between 1 and 2 months, and then again between 6 and 18 months.
MMR. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, which were historically very common in children. All three diseases can be easily caught from others, but vaccination has successfully reduced the number of infections significantly. There are two doses, one between 12 and 15 months and the other between 4 and 6 years.
Polio. Polio can cause paralysis, meningitis and even death. The Inactivated Polio Vaccine can prevent polio, and in the United States, no case of polio has been reported for 20 years. Children receive four doses of the vaccine in total.
Influenza. Commonly known as flu, the influenza virus can be very serious in young children, who may not have a strong immune system. The flu shot (inactivated influenza) should be administered after 6 months of age.
Varicella. Otherwise known as chicken pox, varicella is common and is normally mild, but can be serious in young children. Children who have not had the disease should be vaccinated between 12 and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee protection against the virus, but in the event of infection, the symptoms are likely to be much milder.
Meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children in the United States. The disease affects the brain and spinal cord. Many people who get the disease die from it or suffer serious, permanent side effects. The MCV4 vaccine is used in the United States for everyone under the age of 55. For adolescents, the vaccine is recommended in two doses, one between 11 and 12 and the second at 16.