Protecting every generation: A breakdown of age-appropriate vaccinations
Throughout our lives, vaccines play a vital role in keeping us healthy and protected from harmful diseases. But it can be challenging to keep track of which family members need what shots and when they need them.
To help you stay up with your family’s vaccines, Jane Sadler, MD, who is on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano, answers some of the most common questions about vaccine schedules. Dr. Sadler, a member of the Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, also touches on factors you should consider when arranging shots for yourself and your loved ones.
What vaccines should infants and young children have?
Early vaccinations for infants and children are important for disease protection. Infants commonly receive their first hepatitis B vaccine in the newborn nursery or at their first visit with their medical provider (at less than 1 month old).
Monoclonal antibody products—man-made proteins that act like human antibodies in the immune system—are available to protect infants and young children who may be at risk for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Your healthcare provider will decide whether to recommend the shot for your child based on their risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that immunocompromised children between 2 months and 10 years old receive the meningococcal (MenACWY) vaccine, which protects against bacterial infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord and in the bloodstream.
The CDC.gov guidelines list a number of vaccines recommended for children from birth through to 6 years old.
At what age should infants receive their first round of vaccinations?
At around 2 months old, children receive several additional vaccines, including rotavirus, hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Prevnar (pneumococcus) and polio, as well as the diphtheria tetanus and whooping cough (DTaP) shot.
In addition to standard vaccinations, an annual flu shot is recommended for children starting at age 6 months. Children between 6 months and 8 years who are receiving their first flu vaccine will be given two vaccines four weeks apart. Older children or those who previously received their double shots should get a single flu vaccine each year.
What are some potential risks of delaying or skipping vaccines in early childhood?
Up to 22% of parents delay vaccines for their infants. Any delay or “spreading out” of vaccine doses may leave a child at risk for common preventable diseases such as haemophilus influenzae type b (which can lead to bacterial meningitis and pneumonia) or pneumococcus. These potentially life-threatening infections are highly prevalent in the first two years of life. Other diseases, including flu and rotavirus, are common reasons for hospitalizations and are preventable (or substantially less severe) in properly immunized infants.
What vaccines are recommended for teenagers?
I recommend the HPV vaccine for all teens. It can decrease the risk of complications of the human papillomavirus virus, which include mouth, throat, head and neck cancers. In addition, it may decrease the risk for genital warts and cervical, vaginal, vulva, anal and penile cancers. If given before the age of 15, it is a two-shot series. But if the child is over 15, then is a three-shot series. The CDC estimates that 85% of people will be infected by HPV in their lifetimes, so it's best to make sure your children are protected..
The Tdap vaccine is provided at ages 11-12 years as a booster for the tetanus/whooping cough vaccine.
An annual flu shot is strongly recommended, along with the most recent COVID vaccine.
The CDC has added the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY) for all 11- to 12-year-olds, with a booster dose at 16 years of age to protect against meningococcal meningitis.
Have any new vaccines been introduced recently for teenagers ?
An additional serogroup B meningococcal vaccine is now available (MenB) and is recommended for those aged 16-18 years. Other high-risk individuals, such as those who are immunocompromised or who have had their spleens removed, should also have this vaccine.
What are the vaccinations for adults?
Vaccines are highly important for adults, especially immunocompromised and older adults. You and your medical provider should make vaccination decisions together.
What are some vaccines that adults should consider based on their age, lifestyle and health conditions?
The HPV vaccine is recommended up to age 26 and in some adults up to 45. It is important to review all risk factors with your primary care provider.
The shingles vaccine is recommended to guard against shingles and its complications in adults 50 years and older, as well as for those 19 years old and older with weakened immune systems due to disease or medical treatments. Shingles can cause long-term chronic nerve pain and can be exceptionally painful.
The CDC now recommends RSV vaccines for adults 60 and older. Your doctor can advise you on how health issues and underlying conditions such as asthma, COPD or heart disease may increase the risk of RSV complications and if these individuals are likely to benefit from the single-dose vaccine.
How do vaccines like the flu shot benefit not only the individual but also the community at large?
If between 83% and 94% of people are immune to a certain infection, whether through vaccine or natural immunity, the infection is less likely to become widespread. This so-called herd immunity provides a significant layer of protection for unvaccinated individuals.
Why is it important for older adults to stay up to date with their vaccinations?
As you age, your immune system doesn’t fight off disease as efficiently as a younger person’s. That’s why older adults can be more prone to illnesses and infections. Keeping up with their vaccines can help them maintain a high level of disease protection. This is particularly important for older adults who live in close quarters or group settings.
What vaccines are recommended for over adults over 65?
RSV is common and very easily spread from grandchildren to grandparents. A vaccine is available for those 60 and older. A single injection is recommended, and it is possible the vaccine can last from eight months to two years.
Still have questions about your family's immunizations? Ask your family physician for guidance regarding recommended vaccines and when to get them.
If you don't have a family doctor, find one near you.
If you're in North Texas, your family may be able to get your immunizations in your home, on your schedule, through our in-home vaccine program.
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