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Today, nearly all health care practitioners agree that the benefits of scheduled immunizations far outweigh any risks you may have heard of. Our children are far healthier today because of these vaccines, which help protect children and adults from diseases that used to kill thousands every year. Slight reactions, such as a mild fever or irritability, can commonly occur after immunization, but they usually aren't serious. The recommended schedule may vary slightly depending on your medical practice, but the must-have immunizations currently given to babies and children today are:
- DTaP vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis, given at 2, 4 and 6 months, with boosters given at 15 months and 4 to 6 years.
- Hib vaccine to prevent infection from bacteria that cause meningitis and other serious infections in children, given at 2, 4 and 6 months and at 12 to 15 months. (Hib is not recommended to be given between 4 and 6 years.)
- Polio vaccine, given at 2, 4 and 18 months, with a booster at 4 to 6 years of age.
- Hepatitis B vaccine, now given roughly between 2 days and 2 weeks and at 3 and 9 months to prevent this potentially serious viral liver infection.
- Varicella vaccine, given at 12 months to prevent chicken pox.
- Prevnar, given to prevent pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, a large number of blood infections, pneumonia and, occasionally, ear infections, which are often resistant to multiple antibiotics. This is usually given at 2, 4 and 6 months, with a booster at 18 months.
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, given at 12 months, with a booster between 4 and 6 years.
- Influenza vaccine, now recommended for infants 6 to 23 months during flu season (October through March). They need to receive 2 doses the first season, a month apart.