Childhood vaccines protect from more than a dozen diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Most of these diseases are now at their lowest levels in history, thanks to years of immunization.
Vaccines help make you immune to serious diseases without getting sick first. If you don’t get a vaccine, you have to actually get a disease in order to become immune to the germ that causes it.
When should children be vaccinated?
Vaccines work best when they are given at certain ages. For example, children don’t receive the measles vaccine until they are at least age one year. If it is given earlier, it might not work as well. Children must get at least some vaccines before they can attend school.
The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend a specific childhood vaccine schedule each year.
The schedule outlines the vaccinations and booster shots needed from birth through age 18 years, as well as when catch-up immunizations should be given.
Some vaccinations require more than one dose, given at different times. Although your child won’t need to restart the series if a scheduled dose is missed, the vaccine should be given as soon as possible.
The recommended vaccination schedule is designed to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
- Each vaccine is tested during the licensing process to ensure that it is safe and effective for children to get at the recommended ages.
- Vaccines don’t overload the immune system. Every day, a healthy baby’s immune system successfully fights off millions of antigens - the parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work. Vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens that babies encounter in their environment every day.
- Children don’t benefit from following schedules that delay vaccines. Delaying vaccines puts children at risk of becoming ill with vaccine-preventable diseases.