What You Need to Know About the Updated Vaccine Schedule for Kids

  • Delaying vaccination increases the risk of getting one of the diseases.
  • The annual update to childhood and adolescent vaccine schedules aims to make it clearer to doctors which children should receive which vaccines and when.
  • Updates include changes to Tdap and flu vaccination guidance.

Major medical groups released an annual update to the childhood and adolescent vaccine recommendations this month. There aren’t any major changes — mostly just clarifications. In a time when some parents find vaccines controversial, doctors say they should stick to the schedule.

The document aims to make it clearer to doctors which children should receive which vaccines and when.

The schedule includes recommended vaccines from birth through age 18. It also includes a catch-up schedule for children who haven’t received vaccines on time.

Sticking to the schedule

There’s nothing in the schedule that parents should find alarming, but it does reinforce the recommendation to vaccinate children in a timely fashion.

Dr. Alex Kemper, division chief of primary care pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said that following the recommended schedule is the best way to make sure children have a strong immunity to the diseases without getting sick.

Delaying vaccination increases the risk of getting one of the diseases. Children can be caught up on the schedule, but there’s no reason to delay vaccines unless the child has a medical contraindication, Kemper said.

“High rates of vaccination will also protect others who are not able to be vaccinated, such as infants who are too young to be protected by vaccination,” Kemper told Healthline.

The schedule is based on robust data from multiple studies involving thousands of people.

Kemper is excited about upcoming vaccines being developed, such as those to protect children against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV can cause serious lung disease and sometimes even death in children.

“I look forward to a future where we can protect more individuals from these diseases. In the meantime, the current vaccination schedule represents the best approach to prevention,” he added.

Jennifer Burns, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and medical director of the pediatric and family travel clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital, agreed with Kemper.

The immunization schedule is well studied and provides the best protection to infants, children, adolescents, and adults against vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), she told Healthline.

The immune effectiveness of most vaccines is not age-dependent, except for HPV, she noted. Studies have shown that younger individuals who receive the HPV vaccine have a better immune response compared with older individuals.

“Delaying vaccines may expose a person to VPDs, and since more people are delaying vaccines, we can’t depend on herd immunity,” she explained.

Some modifications to the schedule include:

  • Meningococcal serogroup ACWY. Guidance was added regarding adolescent revaccination for children who received the vaccine before the age 10.
  • Hepatitis A. Specifications reflect routine catch-up schedules.
  • Hepatitis B. A “special situations” section was added with revaccination recommendations.
  • Flu. The routine recommendations section was reformatted to outline circumstances under which one or two doses of influenza vaccine are recommended. They also note situations when not to use the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV).
  • Poliovirus. Information was added regarding which doses of trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (tOPV) may be counted as valid. Only tOPV counts toward the U.S. vaccination requirements. Doses of OPV given on or after April 1, 2016, shouldn’t be counted.
  • DTaP/Tdap. A classification was added pertaining to the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, which is for kids under 7. A fifth dose isn’t necessary if the fourth dose was administered at the age of 4 or older, or at least 6 months after the third dose. The booster, Tdap, is given at 7 to 10 years of age. Children who receive Tdap at age 10 don’t need to receive the routine Tdap dose at 11 or 12 years old.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Catch-up vaccination isn’t recommended in children 5 years and older who aren’t at high risk.

Any post-vaccine issues should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System online or by calling 800-822-7967.

The schedule is updated annually. It was approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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