1. Mosocco, Doris J. RN, BSN, CHCE, COSC.

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A vaccine is a medicine that is given to help prevent a disease. Vaccines help the body to produce antibodies and these antibodies protect against the disease. Vaccines are generally quite safe and carry a very small risk of serious problems. Some vaccines may cause mild temporary side effects, such as fever, soreness, or a lump under the skin where the shot was given. Vaccinations usually start when the child is 2 months old and most of them are complete by the time they reach 6 years of age. A current copy of the recommended childhood and adolescent immunization schedule can be found at The schedule provides a table listing the various vaccines indicating the age of the child at the time of the vaccine. A blank copy of a vaccine administration record for children and teens can be found at for the use in documenting each of the child's vaccine.

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In some situations, children should not be vaccinated. Some vaccines should not be given to children who have certain types of cancer or certain diseases, or who take drugs that lower the body's ability to resist infection. The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine should not be given to children who have a serious allergy to eggs.


Common vaccines include the following.


Flu vaccine: The flu vaccine contains viruses that are dead. It is safe for children who are 6 months of age and older. It is especially important for children between 6 and 23 months of age to receive the flu shot as they are more likely to have complications from the flu.


Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine: This is a combination of three vaccines in one shot. It protects the child against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis and is given as a series of five shots. Diphtheria is a disease that attacks the throat and heart and can lead to heart failure and death. Tetanus is also referred to as "lockjaw" and can lead to severe muscle spasms and death. Pertussis (whooping cough) causes severe cough, making it hard to breathe, eat, and drink. It can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, and death. If the children had received the DTaP vaccine when they were young, they will need a booster shot at the age of 10 years.


Tetanus and diphtheria vaccine: This vaccine is used as a booster to the diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine and helps prevent tetanus and diphtheria and is given when the child is 11 years old or older and every 10 years throughout life.


Inactivated polio vaccine: This vaccine helps prevent polio. It is given four times as a shot and has replaced the older oral polio vaccine. Polio can cause muscle pain and paralysis of one or both legs or arms and can also paralyze the muscles that are used to breathe and swallow and can lead to death.


Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: This vaccine protects against the measles, mumps and rubella and is given as two shots. Measles causes fever, rash, cough, running nose, and watery eyes, and can also cause ear infections and pneumonia. Measles can also lead to serious problems such as brain swelling and even death. Mumps causes fever, headache, and painful swelling of one or both of the major saliva glands. Mumps can lead to meningitis and very rarely to brain swelling. Rarely, it can cause the testicles of boys or men to swell and render them sterile. Rubella is also called the German measles and causes slight fever, rash, and swelling of the glands in the neck. It can also cause brain swelling or a problem with bleeding. Some people have suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes autism, but on the basis of research, there has been no link between autism and childhood vaccinations.


Hemophilus influenzae type b vaccine: This vaccine helps to prevent hemophilus influenza type b, which is a leading cause of serious illness in children and can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, and severe throat infection that can cause choking. It is given as a series of three or four shots.


Varicella vaccine: The varicella vaccine helps to prevent chickenpox. It is given to children once after they are 12 months old or to older children if they never had chickenpox or have never been vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a recommendation for a second dose of varicella vaccine to be given to children 4-6 years old to further improve protection against the disease. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommended that children, adolescents, and adults who previously received one dose should receive a second dose.


Hepatitis B vaccine: This vaccine helps to prevent hepatitis B virus, which is an infection of the liver that can lead to liver cancer and death. It is given as a series of three shots, and the Hepatitis B and Hemophilus influenzae type b vaccines can also be given together in the same shot.


Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: Owing to their ability to protect against a type of bacteria that is a common cause of ear infections, this vaccine is given in four doses to infants and toddlers. The vaccine may also be used in older children who are at risk for pneumoccocal infection. The bacteria can cause meningitis and bacteremia.


Meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) vaccine: This vaccine protects against four strains of bacterial meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. It is an infection of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord and can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck, and confusion.


The American Academy of Pediatrics has Immunizations and Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide available for sale. Information can be found by logging on to and scrolling down to A Guide for Parents. The book sells for $14.95 and is written in an easy-to-understand language. Topics include information on over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies, protecting your newborn, and much more. The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote Immunizations and Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide based on the Red Book, the resource pediatricians have used for more than 65 years.


Doris J. Mosocco, RN, BSN, CHCE, COSC.




American Academy of Pediatrics: American Academy of Family Physicians: Center for Disease Control