Now’s the Time to Catch Up on Childhood Immunizations

Now’s the Time to Catch Up on Childhood Immunizations

Lee esto en EspañolGetting childhood immunizations on time matters. If children don’t have their shots, they are at greater chance of getting some serious diseases. They could also spread those diseases to their friends and family.

Many parents and children stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic. That kept them safe, but it means children missed well-child visits, and many are behind on their shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents to make sure their child continues to receive recommended vaccinations.

Don’t Delay

Now’s the time to catch up on vaccines, before the busy back-to-school rush. This year, more children may be behind on their shots because of the pandemic.

Children need vaccines to stay healthy, from when they are babies to their teens. Getting vaccines on time during childhood is essential. It gives immunity before children are exposed to diseases. And children must get some vaccines before they can go to school.

Children in the U.S. get vaccines that protect them from more than a dozen diseases, including:

  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)

Most of these diseases are now at their lowest levels in history, thanks to years of immunization. About 300 children die each year in the U.S. from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Immunizations are a vital part of preventive care for children and help prevent resurgence of disease.

Talk to your doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine and when your child can be vaccinated.  

Why Are Vaccines Given at Young Ages?

The diseases that childhood vaccines are meant to prevent are most likely to happen when children are young and the chance of complications is greatest. That makes early vaccination — sometimes starting shortly after birth — essential. If you put off vaccines until a child is older, it might be too late. Vaccines are tested to make sure that they are safe and effective for children to get at the recommended ages.

Are Vaccines Safe for Young Children?

Yes, vaccines are very safe. Each licensed vaccine for children goes through years of safety testing by the Food and Drug Administration to make sure they are safe. They work by exposing your body to a very small amount of weak or dead versions of germs or viruses. Your immune system then builds up resources to fight those bugs in the future. Vaccines have slowed or stopped the spread of polio, measles, mumps and other serious diseases.

The most common side effects are often very mild, such as pain or swelling at the shot site.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

Despite much public debate on the topic, researchers have not found a link between autism and childhood vaccines. The study that started the talk years ago was retracted.

When to Get Vaccinations

The CDC recommends specific vaccinations for children and teens at certain ages:

Infant to 2 years: Starting vaccines from birth can help protect your child against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (protects against Hib, a severe bacterial infection), pneumococcal disease, polio, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).

3 to 6 years: Continue with vaccinations that protect against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella. Also continue with yearly flu shots.

7 to 13 years: Preteen vaccinations can help protect against HPV, meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Also continue with yearly flu shots.

14 to 18 years: Getting recommended vaccines and a yearly flu shot through age 18 can help your child stay healthy.

Talk to Your Doctor

Ask your child’s pediatrician about vaccinations. It’s best to get the facts you need from a medical professional you can trust. Don’t make health choices based on stories you’ve seen on TV or the internet or heard from other parents.

Wellness Guidelines: An Easy Path to Better Health

We offer Wellness Guidelines each year that include specific recommendations for preventive care, immunizations and screenings for adults and children. Check out the Wellness Guidelines to find out what preventive care you and your family need to stay healthy.

Sources: Catch Up on Well-Child Visits and Recommended Vaccinations,   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Immunization Schedules,   CDC, 2021; Children’s Vaccines: The Basics,   WedMD, 2019; Immunizations and Infectious Diseases,; Childhood Vaccines,   MedlinePlus, 2021