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Which vaccines does my child need?

Posted on June 15, 2017 at 9:10 AM

Required vaccines for school in Colorado: DTaP, Polio, Hib, HepB, PCV, MMR, Varicella

DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis)

- 5 doses - given at ages 2, 4, and 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.

- Diphtheria - very rare since the vaccine came out - it’s a severe sore throat with a high fever; the bacteria can cause thin membranes to grow across the throat and the child can suffocate.

- Tetanus - a bacterial infection caused by deep puncture wounds (stepping on a nail, dog/cat bite, etc). The bacteria that causes tetanus lives in soil and creates spores, so it can happen in any person with a dirty wound that is deep. When a child sustains a puncture wound, wash it immediately with soap and water, then call the doctor. Tetanus is treated with strong antibiotics and two injections (tetanus toxoid and tetanus immune globulin).

- Pertussis - a.k.a whooping cough - starts off looking like a regular cold with a cough that doesn’t go away. The cough typically lasts up to 2 months. Children will cough several times in a row until they run out of air, then take a gasping breath (the “whoop”;). Sometimes children cough until they vomit, and sometimes they burst blood vessels in their face and eyes from coughing so hard. When a child is diagnosed with pertussis, the other people they came into contact with need to be tested and probably need preventive (prophylactic) antibiotic treatment.

Polio (polio virus, IPV = inactivated polio vaccine)

- 4 doses - given at 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years

- Polio is a virus that is very contagious (airborne - it can travel across a room). It starts off as a flu-like illness, but causes paralysis of nerves. It can affect any nerve in the body and cause irreparable damage - it can cause a permanent limp, inability to use a hand, inability to see/hear on one side, or even death if it affects the diaphragm.

- Polio has no cure or antidote, only the vaccine to prevent it

HiB (Haemophilus Influenzae B)

- Typically 4 doses, given at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months. If a child missed the early doses but has one after they are a year old, that one dose is sufficient. A child over 5 does not need any more doses, even if they have never been vaccinated against HiB.

- HiB is a bacterial infection that only seriously affects children under age 5. It used to be one of the leading causes of death in young children by causing meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia. Now that we have the vaccine, HiB disease is rare.

- HiB is spread through respiratory droplets and secretions, so a child with HiB disease is contagious when they sneeze, cough, or put objects in their mouth.

- HiB disease is treated with antibiotics

Hepatitis B

- 3 doses - given at birth, 1-2 months, and 6-18 months

- HepB is blood-borne, so it is spread through the placenta from an infected mother, or through needle sticks or sexual contact

- HepB has some treatment but is not currently curable. About 1/3 of people with HepB will develop chronic infection that leads to serious liver damage.

Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV - Strep pneumoniae)

- 4 doses - given at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 mos

- PCV vaccine currently protects against 13 strains of strep. The strains it protects against are the ones that are most virulent, meaning the ones that progress beyond simple strep throat, ear infections, or sinus infections, and cause diseases such as meningitis, sepsis, and pneumonia.

- Strep is spread through direct contact with bodily secretions (mucus, saliva) and is treated with antibiotics

MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)

- 2 doses - age 12-15 mos and 4-6 years

- Measles is a virus that causes a high fever, rash, and can cause meningitis (which can be fatal) and hearing loss (which is permanent). It is extremely contagious (airborne - can travel across a room). There is no cure, only the vaccine to prevent it.

- Mumps is a virus that causes painful swelling of the parotid gland (one of the salivary glands on the jaw), and in boys causes inflammation of the testes. It typically only affects one parotid gland and one testis, but in about 1/3 of boys, both testes are involved, and they are at risk of becoming sterile. There is no cure, only the vaccine to prevent it.

- Rubella is a virus that causes fever and a rash. It is usually pretty mild, but the reason we vaccinate children is to protect the unborn babies of women who are pregnant. Think of Zika virus, how it affects unborn babies. It’s a similar concept. When a pregnant woman gets rubella, she is at risk of having a miscarriage, or of her baby having serious birth defects and/or brain damage. Rubella is spread through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing). Rubella has no cure, only the vaccine to prevent it.

Varicella (chickenpox)

- 2 doses - age 12-15 mos and 4-6 years

- Starts as a fever and cough for about 2 days, some flu-like symptoms, and then the rash appears (blisters all over the body). Children who have only had one dose of the varicella vaccine (i.e. children aged 15 mos to 4 years) can still get chickenpox; they typically get a mild case if they do get it.

- Much like the rubella vaccine, the varicella vaccine was designed to protect unborn babies of women who are pregnant. When a pregnant woman gets varicella, she is at risk of having a miscarriage, or of her baby having serious birth defects and/or brain damage.

- A child who has had chickenpox does NOT need the varicella vaccine, but they do need documentation of when they had chickenpox.

- Varicella is spread through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), or by direct contact with the rash. A child who has chicken pox needs to stay out of school until all of the blisters of the rash have popped and crusted over. They are also contagious for 2 days before the rash develops (when they have a cough and fever).

- Varicella has no cure, only the vaccine to prevent it. After a person has varicella, the virus can hid in their nerves and come out later in life as shingles.

Optional vaccines in Colorado: Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Influenza


- 3 doses, given at 2, 4, and 6 months

- Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration in babies. It’s spread by contact with the infected diarrhea. If you change the diaper of any child with diarrhea, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water afterward.

- Once a baby is more than 8 months old, they cannot get rotavirus vaccine.

- Rotavirus has no cure; typical treatment for babies and young children is being kept in the hospital for IV fluids

Hepatitis A

- 2 doses given at 12-15 months, and then again 6+ months later

- HepA is a virus that causes flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, and jaundice (yellow skin)

- HepA is spread through contact with infected fecal matter; the infected stool can get into water supplies and spread from ground water, from fruits and vegetables sprayed with infected water and/or not washed prior to consumption, and in restaurants from infected chefs failing to wash their hands

- HepA has no cure, only the vaccine to prevent it


- Given as early as age 6 months. The first two doses need to be given 1 month apart, then it is given annually between October and May

- The flu vaccine is not 100% effective, meaning children who receive the vaccine can still get influenza

- Influenza causes constitutional symptoms (fever, muscle aches, fatigue), respiratory symptoms (cough, asthma attacks, etc), and GI symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea)

- Influenza is very contagious (airborne - can travel across a room)

- There is a specific antiviral treatment called Tamiflu for people who test positive for influenza virus - it must be given in the first 72 hours of being sick, and sometimes causes worse GI symptoms

- Children with influenza need to stay home from school until 24 hours after fever is gone or 24 hours after starting Tamiflu

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