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Childhood Vaccines

Woman is holding baby on her lap as healthcare provider prepares to give a vaccine.

To keep your child healthy, he or she should get the recommended childhood vaccines. Many vaccines are given in a series of doses over a certain period of time. To be protected, your child needs each dose at the right time. Make sure you also get all recommended vaccines. The exact number of vaccines needed to keep your child healthy may vary. It depends on the availability of combination vaccines that provide immunity for more than one illness in one vaccine.

Vaccines may cause mild side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of vaccines. Also talk with your provider about any missed vaccines. Your child will need catch-up vaccines for complete protection.

The following are childhood illnesses and the routine childhood vaccines used to prevent them.

Hepatitis B (HepB)

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that can damage the liver. Some people may later develop liver cancer or liver failure. The HepB vaccine is usually given in 3 doses: soon after birth, at age 1 to 2 months, and at age 6 to 18 months.

Rotavirus (RV)

Rotavirus disease is caused by the rotavirus. The illness causes severe vomiting and diarrhea in young children. It can lead to severe dehydration. Children often need to be treated in the hospital. The rotavirus vaccine is available in a 2- or 3-dose series. The 2-dose series is given at ages 2 and 4 months. The 3-dose series is given at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)

Diphtheria is an infection that can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing. It can also cause swollen neck glands. In severe cases, the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream and damage the heart and other organs and even lead to death.

Tetanus (lockjaw)

Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria. It can lead to muscle spasms that keep you from opening your mouth, swallowing, or breathing. Even with treatment, the condition is usually fatal. 

Pertussis (whooping cough) is an infection caused by bacteria. It causes coughing and choking spells. It can also lead to pneumonia or brain damage in infants. The DTaP vaccine is given in 5 doses: at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years. Your child also needs a booster dose (called the Tdap) at ages 11 to 12 years. If he or she is older than that, the Tdap should replace the next tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster. Your child should then get the Tdap or Td booster every 10 years throughout life.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

Haemophilus influenzae type b is a bacteria that can cause inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). It can also cause pneumonia and other serious infections. A 4-dose Hib vaccine is given at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 through 15 months. A 3-dose Hib vaccine is given at age 2 months and 4 months, and then again at 12 to 15 months. F. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about which type of vaccine your child needs.

Inactivated polio (IPV)

Polio is caused by a virus. It can cause permanent paralysis of the muscles, including the muscles that control breathing. Polio can also be fatal. The polio vaccine is given as a shot (injection) in the muscle in 4 doses: at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years.

Babies, children, and adults who travel to countries where polio is still active should have a current vaccine against polio. Young children should complete their polio vaccine series before travel. But a speeded-up series may be advised if the child is traveling before the series is complete. Talk with your healthcare provider to make sure your family's vaccines are up to date.

Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)

Measles cause fever and a rash. It can also cause hearing loss, brain damage, or death.

Mumps has symptoms of fever, headache, and swollen, painful glands under the jaw. It can damage the testes, causing infertility in males. Mumps can also lead to hearing loss or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Rubella (German measles) causes fever, swollen glands, and rash. If a pregnant woman develops rubella, her baby may be born with severe health problems.

The MMR vaccine is given in 2 doses: at ages 12 through 15 months, and 4 through 6 years. Talk with your healthcare provider if you and your family are traveling to an area where there is a current measles outbreak. The provider may change the schedule to provide immunity faster.

Varicella (chickenpox)

Varicella is caused by a virus. It causes itchy skin blisters. In rare cases, a child may develop pneumonia, severe skin infections, or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). This can be fatal.

The vaccine is given in 2 doses: at ages 12 through 15 months, and ages 4 through 6 years.


Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria. It can cause an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Symptoms include high fever, headache, and stiff neck. If left untreated, it can result in other serious health problems, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability. In some cases, it can cause death.

Two types of meningococcal vaccines protect against different strains of meningococcus bacteria

  • MenACWY vaccine is advised for all preteens. It's given at ages 11 to 12, with a booster shot at age 16. This protects against meningococcal bacteria types A, C, W, and Y.

  • MenB vaccine protects against meningococcal bacteria type B. Teens and young adults ages 16 through 23 may also get this vaccine if they are at risk for type B meningococcal disease outbreak. This applies to young adults living in close quarters, including college freshmen living in dormitories or those in military barracks. Talk with your child's healthcare provider to learn more about MenB.


If your child has a weak immune system from HIV or another health condition, your child's healthcare provider may recommend that he or she be vaccinated at a younger age.   


Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria. It can affect the brain and spinal cord, lungs, and ears. In severe cases, infection can be deadly. The PCV13 vaccine is given to healthy children in 4 doses: at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 through 15 months. In some children with high-risk health conditions, another vaccine, PCV23, may be advised in addition to PCV13.

Influenza (flu)

Influenza is caused by a virus and can lead to fever, headache, sore throat, cough, and muscle aches. It can also result in pneumonia and death, especially in very young children.

Children should get the vaccine starting at 6 months of age. The flu vaccine is given every year during the fall. Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time need 2 doses.

Hepatitis A (HepA)

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus and can cause sudden liver inflammation. The HepA vaccine is given in 2 doses at least 6 months apart, starting at age 1 year.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Genital HPV infection is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a virus. Infection with certain types of the virus can cause genital warts. They can also cause cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancers in women. For the vaccine to work, it should be given in late childhood. The vaccine is given in 2 doses:

  • The first dose is advised at age 11 to 12. But it may sometimes be given as early as age 9 or as late as age 14.

  • The second dose is given 6 to 12 months after the first.

Children who miss the age range for HPV and don't start the series until age 15 or later should get 3 doses. The second dose is given 1 to 2 months after the first. The third is given 6 months after the first. 

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
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