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Children's Health

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Children’s Vaccines: The Basics

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Being a parent means you likely worry about keeping your child safe and healthy. You treat bumps and bruises, and soothe him when he's sick. Vaccines are another important way to protect your child's health.

Learn why doctors recommend certain vaccines and when your child should get them. Below are answers to some common questions you might have.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free children’s preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests. Learn more.

Health Insurance Center

What's a Vaccine?

It's a medicine that protects you against a serious or deadly disease. A vaccine helps your immune system build the tools, called antibodies, it needs to fight viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses. It can take a few weeks for the body to make those antibodies. So if you're exposed to the disease right before or right after getting the vaccine for it, you could still get sick. 

Which Ones Does My Child Need?

Almost all healthy kids should get vaccines as they grow up. Your child’s doctor can help you know when it’s time for vaccinations.  You can also find out more about the shot schedule from the CDC.

Here are the shots doctors recommend for most kids:

Birth Through 6 Years

  • Hepatitis B (hep B) - This prevents an infection that causes liver failure. Children need three doses in their first 18 months of life.
  • Rotavirus (RV) – This protects your child from a stomach infection that causes life-threatening diarrhea. Babies get three doses between ages 2-6 months. 
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) – Five doses protect against all three diseases. They start at 2 months through age 6.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - The vaccine protects against a bacteria that causes dangerous brain, lung, and windpipe infections. Kids get it three or four times (depending on the vaccine brand) starting at 2 months.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) – It comes in four doses, starting at 2 months. The shot protects against deadly brain and blood infections.
  • Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) – Four doses protect against polio. They start at 2 months.
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) – Two doses guard against all three of these illnesses. Your child gets one at 12-15 months and another at 4-6 years.
  • Hepatitis A (hep A) - The hep A virus can cause liver failure. Children should get 2 doses of the vaccine starting at age 1.
  • Varicella (chickenpox) - Kids need two doses, spaced out about 4-5 years.
  • Influenza (flu) - The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months of age and older get this vaccine every year. Kids under age 9 may need more than one dose.
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