Feb. 1, 2011 -- An updated vaccine schedule for children and teens is out from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Parents should be aware that the vaccine schedule is updated every year," Cody Meissner, MD, a consultant to the AAP's Committee on Infectious Disease who helped update the new schedule, tells WebMD.
"It's updated as we acquire new vaccines that are licensed by the FDA, and it's updated as we gain new information about the optimal times to administer different vaccines,'' says Meissner, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine and chief of pediatric infectious diseases, Tufts Medical Center, Boston.
This year's schedule addresses all the recommended vaccines during childhood and adolescence, with changes involving these vaccines:
The updated schedule has been approved by the AAP, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The pediatricians have also issued a catch-up schedule for children and teens ages 4 months through 18 years who started immunizations late or who are behind by more than a month.
The new information on immunizations is published online in the journal Pediatrics.
WebMD asked for input from two doctors involved in developing the updated schedules -- Meissner and Henry Bernstein, DO, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases and chief of general pediatrics at the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.
Among the vaccine news they say parents need to know:
Pertussis vaccine. Children ages 7 through 10 who aren't fully vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough), including children never vaccinated or with an unknown vaccination status, should get a single dose of the Tdap vaccine, Meissner says. Parents may mistakenly think whooping cough is a disease of the past, he says, but that's not so, as last year's outbreaks of whooping cough suggest.
Teens 13 through 18 who haven't gotten the Tdap vaccine yet should get a dose, followed by a booster of tetanus and diphtheria (Td) every decade.
Meningococcal vaccine. Meningococcal disease, a serious bacterial illness, is a cause of bacterial meningitis (an infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord) in children 2-18. Under previous schedules, this vaccine was routinely given at age 11 or 12, Meissner says. "It was expected immunity would last through age 21," he tells WebMD. But, he says, ''it turns out immunity does not last even five years for most vaccine recipients."
So the new recommendation is to give the first dose at age 11 or 12, as before, then to give the second dose, the booster, at age 16 to 18.
Hepatitis B vaccine. The new schedule gives guidance for when to give this vaccine (which protects against serious liver disease from a form of viral hepatitis) to children who did not receive the recommended dose at birth. Some children are given the first dose of this at birth, some get the first dose at 6-8 weeks, Meissner says. The new schedule sets the minimum age for dose three for the children who did not get the first dose at birth at no earlier than 24 weeks of age.