Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Baby and Childhood Immunizations

In the decades when our grandparents and even parents were children, there were infectious diseases that could cause devastation within a family. Today more than ever, a lot of those horrific diseases are completely in the past because immunizations have prevented them.

Things like polio, diphtheria, and measles are now immunized against and those horrors of the past are no longer something that parents have to agonize about and fear the children catching them.

There is a series of vaccines that your baby will have to be given at various stages. Many of them, as well as booster shots will be given before the baby is two, but there are a few more that will be given before he or she starts kindergarten.

Here are the vaccinations that are recommended and when your health care provider might suggest giving them. Keep in mind that you may have to remind the baby's doctor about the vaccinations because many people use clinics that offer the shots free of charge and the doctor may not even ask if you have had them done. It is something you need to keep track of and make sure the immunizations are given at the proper times.

(1) DTP vaccination. This is to prevent three diseases that were very damaging to children in the past. The initials stand for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Tetanus is also called lockjaw and the bacterium enters the body through an open wound or cut. Pertussis is also known as whopping cough. This injection is given five times. Your doctor will probably suggest injections at 2, 4, and 6 months and then another at 12 to 15 months. The fifth is given between the ages of 4 and 6.

(2) Polio. Four doses of this vaccine are given at 2 and 4 months, sometime between 6 and 18 months, and again at between ages 4 and 6.

(3) MMR vaccination. This stands for measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles.) This immunization is given twice: at 12 to 18 months and again at age 4 to 6.

(4) Varicella vaccine. This is to prevent the common and very infectious childhood disease of chicken pox. The one dose is given between 12 and 18 months.

(5) The first Hepatitis B injection is often given to a baby before even going home from the hospital. There will be two other injections.

(6) Hepatitis A is not required in some parts of the country. Check with the baby's doctor to see if this is an immunization the baby will need to have.

(7) Hib immunizations are given to protect against pneumonia, meningitis, and certain kinds of infections of the bones. There will be three or four injection with the first one being given when the baby is two months old.

(8) PCV (Pneumococcal vaccine) is to protect against infections of the blood. Babies will get the five injections at 2, 4, and 6 months and another at 12 to 15 months.

In addition to these immunizations, your pediatrician may want to give the baby an influenza vaccine. This will not be done for a baby younger than six months, however.

This is a lot to remember, and some of these vaccines have been added to the required list rather recently. Write down all of the baby's immunizations and know ahead of time which vaccines will be coming up.