Published March 01, 2012
Watching your children get a vaccine may be even more painful for you than for them. However, these vaccines can help prevent a wide range of diseases, of which children are particularly vulnerable. Here is a guide to understanding vaccines for kids under 6 years old, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The HepB vaccine is one of the first vaccines children should receive, and it is usually recommended as early as one to two months after birth. The HepA vaccine can wait until 12 to 23 months of age. Hepatitis B and A can both cause liver failure through contact with body fluids or contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B, in particular, can lead to live cancer and possibly death.
Rotavirus (RV) vaccine
Rotavirus is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea in infants and children. Children should receive the first dose of the RV vaccine within two months of birth and complete the final doses by 8 months of age.
DTaP is one vaccine that protects children against three life-threatening diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The symptoms of diphtheria include heart failure, coma or paralysis. Tetanus may result in broken bones or difficulty breathing, while pertussis can lead to pneumonia.
The Hib vaccine prevents illnesses caused by a dangerous bacteria known as Haemophilus influenzae type b. This bacteria can cause a number of health complications, including meningitis, mental retardation, pneumonia and a serious throat infection called epiglottitis. Hib is usually administered in three or four shots and should be given as early as two months of age.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
PCV prevents ear infections and more serious diseases such as meningitis and the blood infection bacteremia. The vaccine typically comes in four doses that children should receive over the first 15 months after birth.
Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV)
This vaccine prevents polio, which can cause muscle pain and paralysis in the limbs. The IPV can be given on its own or combined with DTaP, Hib or HepB vaccines, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
The MMR vaccine is given in two doses to prevent three potentially dangerous childhood diseases. The measles, mumps and rubella can all spread through air or direct contact, and while the symptoms vary, any one of the diseases may lead to death. The first vaccine dose is recommended between 12 and 15 months of age, while the second should be administered later, between 4 and 6 years old.
The influenza or flu vaccine consists of dead or weakened viruses, which may be administered to children through shot or nasal spray. Children should receive the vaccine at the onset of flu season, which typically begins in October or November. The vaccine is usually safe for kids after 6 months of age and should be administered every year to prevent infection.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
The varicella vaccine is the best way to prevent chickenpox, as up to nine out of 10 people who are vaccinated are completely protected. While chickenpox is a fairly common disease, it can lead to serious complications, including infected blisters, bleeding disorders, pneumonia and brain swelling, known as encephalitis. The vaccine is given to children after 1 year of age, in a series of two shots.