On-time vaccination throughout childhood and extending into adulthood is essential because it helps provide immunity before you are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for patients to receive at the recommended ages.
Most parents vaccinate their children according to CDC’s recommended immunization schedule, protecting them from 14 potentially serious diseases before their second birthday. Vaccinating children on time protects them and anyone around them with a weakened immune system.
Why vaccinate according to the recommended schedule?
1. Ideal timing
Like all good babyproofing plans, CDC’s recommended immunization schedule is safe and effective at protecting your baby. It’s based on how your child’s immune system responds to vaccines at various ages, and how likely your baby is to be exposed to a particular disease. This ensures your little one is protected from 14 potentially serious diseases at exactly the right time. On the other hand, there is no data to support that spacing out vaccines offers safe or effective protection from these diseases.
So who looks at all the research and data to know what timing and doses are best? Hundreds of the country’s top doctors, public health professionals, and scientists design the schedule to ensure it is safe and effective.
2. Prevent complications
Delaying vaccines could leave your child vulnerable to disease when she’s most likely to have serious complications.
Think of vaccines like a helmet for your baby. Just like safety equipment protects her from serious injury, vaccinating on schedule protects her from potentially serious diseases.
Young babies are at highest risk of serious disease complications. For example, for you, whooping cough may mean a lingering cough for several weeks, but it can be very serious—even deadly—for babies less than a year old. If you delay vaccinations, your baby could be exposed to diseases like whooping cough when she is most likely to have serious complications.
3. Early protection
It’s best to vaccinate before your child is exposed to dangerous diseases.
You wouldn’t wait until you’re already driving down the road to put your baby in a car seat. You buckle him in every time, long before there is any chance he could be in a crash. Vaccines work the same way—your baby needs them long before he is exposed to a disease.
If you wait until you think your child could be exposed to a serious illness – like when he starts daycare or during a disease outbreak – there may not be enough time for the vaccine to work. That’s why the experts who set the schedule pay such careful attention to timing. They have designed it to provide immunity early in life, before children are likely to be exposed to life-threatening diseases.
4. Best Protection
Your child isn’t fully protected if you cover just a few of the outlets she can reach around your home. Similarly, your baby won’t have the best protection from vaccines until she has all the recommended doses.
Each vaccine is carefully developed to protect against a specific illness. Some require more than one dose to build strong enough immunity to protect your baby, or to boost immunity that decreases over time. Others need additional doses to ensure your baby is protected in case the first dose didn’t produce enough antibodies. Your child needs the flu vaccine each year because the disease changes over time. Simply put, every recommended dose of each vaccine on the schedule is important.
5. Long-term protection
Maternal antibodies and breastfeeding don’t provide enough protection.
Just as you help your child learn to walk, the protection (antibodies) you passed to your baby before birth will help protect your little one from diseases during the first months of life. And just as your child needs to eventually walk on his own, his immune system eventually needs to fight diseases on its own. Vaccines help protect your child when your maternal antibodies wear off.
For example, when you get whooping cough and flu vaccines while you’re pregnant, you can pass some protection to your baby before birth. However, you can only pass on protection from diseases that you have immunity to, and this can only protect your child in the first few months.
Breastfeeding provides important protection from some infections as your baby’s immune system is developing. However, breast milk does not protect children against all diseases. Even for breastfed infants, vaccines are the most effective way to prevent many diseases. That’s why it’s so important to follow the immunization schedule. It ensures your baby’s immune system gets the help it needs to protect your child long-term from preventable diseases.
6. Spreading illness
Children who are not vaccinated on schedule are not only at risk of getting sick themselves, but they can also spread illness to others who aren’t protected, like newborns who are too young for vaccines and people with weakened immune systems. By getting your child’s vaccines on time you’re not only protecting your baby — you’re helping to protect your friends, family, and community, too.
Vaccines by age
Immunizations are provided through the West Virginia Immunization Program. All vaccines are given according to the current ACIP and State Immunization Program recommendations.
Children entering a West Virginia school for the first time from kindergarten through grade 12 are required to have the DTaP, polio, MMR, chickenpox and hepatitis B vaccines.
7th graders must show proof they received a dose of Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough); and a dose of the meningitis vaccine.
12th graders must show proof of a dose of Tdap and a second dose of the meningitis vaccine, if the first dose of the meningitis vaccine was given before the child’s sixteenth birthday.
“These immunization requirements will not only lengthen the time for which immunized students are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, but also will lower their chances of passing diseases to classmates with weakened immune systems, pre-school aged children, infants, the elderly and others,” Dr. Tierney said.
A “fee for the service” does apply to this program. Please call for additional details.
- Combined Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 through 18 years (cdc.gov)
- 2022 Recommended Immunizations for Children from 7 Through 18 Years Old (cdc.gov)
- Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule (cdc.gov)
- 7-12_School_Entry.pdf (wv.gov)
Diseases and the Vaccines that prevent them
Did you know that worldwide more than 780,000 people per year die from complications to Hepatitis B?
Most of us only know diphtheria as an obscure disease from long ago, thanks to the diphtheria vaccine babies get.
Mumps is a contagious disease and there is no treatment.
Did you know your child can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left?
If an unvaccinated pregnant woman gets infected with rubella, she can have a miscarriage or her baby could die just after birth.
Polio was eliminated in the United States with vaccination and continued use of polio vaccine has kept this country polio-free. But, polio is still a threat in some other countries.
Common questions about vaccines
Before you travel
It’s important to plan ahead to get the shots required for all countries you and your family plan to visit.
- Protect your child and family when traveling in the United States or abroad by:
- Getting the shots required for all countries you and your family plan to visit during your trip
- Making sure you and your family are up-to-date on all routine U.S. vaccines
- Staying informed about travel notices and alerts and how they can affect your family’s travel plans
- Avoid getting sick or coming back home and spreading the disease to others.
- Vaccinate at least a month before you travel
See your doctor when you start to plan your trip abroad. It’s important to do this well in advance.
- Your body needs time to build up immunity.
- You may need several weeks to get all the doses of the vaccine.
- Your primary doctor may not stock travel vaccines. Visit a travel medical clinic.
- You’ll need time to prepare for your pre-travel appointment.
If the country you visit requires a yellow fever vaccine, only a limited number of clinics have the vaccine and will probably be some distance from where you live. You must get it at least 10 days before travel.
Many travel vaccines require multiple shots or take time to become fully effective. But some multiple-dose vaccines (like hepatitis A) can still give you partial protection after just one dose. Some can also be given on an “accelerated schedule,” meaning doses are given in a shorter period of time.
Find out which vaccines are recommended or required for the countries you plan to visit.