Understanding Childhood Vaccine Schedule Options
Hep B and Hep A
Vaccines are administered to prevent two kinds of hepatitis, A and B. Hepatitis affects the liver and is transmitted through bodily fluids—especially through sex, fecal matter, sharing needles or from a mother to child. Hepatitis B is more common and deadly. In mild cases, it can last a few weeks. In severe cases, it can lead to liver disease and death. Between 800,000 and 1.4 million Americans have the virus, and 2,000 to 3,000 die of it every year.
The DTaP shot contains several vaccines. DTaP stands for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Because of vaccination policies, diphtheria is not common in the United States. It spreads quickly, moving from what could be mistaken as a sore throat or fever to something much more serious—signs of shock and life-threatening organ complications. Tetanus bacteria can cause an infection that leads to muscle spasms and lockjaw. Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is a respiratory infection. It's one of the leading causes of vaccine-preventable deaths worldwide—and the risk of death in newborns is particularly high.
Like the DTaP, this single shot contains three vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. The CDC says measles is the most deadly of childhood illnesses that cause fever and rash. Mumps causes fever, headaches, tiredness and swollen glands in the neck—but rarely progresses to more severe inflammations. Rubella causes fever and rash that can last for two to three days. Side effects from this vaccine include fever, rash, malaise and joint pain. The vaccine was the subject of decade-long controversy claiming that it caused autism in some children, which lead many parents to avoid the vaccination. Recent outbreaks of measles and mumps have been reported in countries like the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom.
According the CDC, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children, resulting in the death of 600,000 children worldwide annually. Before the vaccine was introduced in 2006, more than 200,000 American infants were taken to emergency rooms because of rotavirus infection.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine fights the bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia (when the bacteria invades the lungs), bacteremia (when it gets in the blood) and meningitis (when it gets to the brain's covering). The CDC reports it is one of the most common causes of vaccine-preventable diseases in America.
Haemophilus influenzae type B bacteria were once a leading cause of childhood blood infections, pneumonia and meningitis. Hib can also lead to inflammations in the throat, bone marrow, joints and connective tissue. After the introduction of the vaccine, Hib infections have declined 99 percent.
While there are two vaccines against meningococcal diseases, the MPSV4 and the MCV4, the MCV4 is more commonly used. Without a vaccination, meningococcal diseases can cause meningitis (inflammation of the protective layer around the brain and spine) and sepsis (infection of the blood). Those most at risk of infection include college students, military recruits or anyone living in close proximity to other people. Meningococcal infection has a fatality rate of 10 to 14 percent, and between 10 and 19 percent of survivors suffer serious side effects including deafness, amputation and brain damage. The CDC is investigating reports of adolescents who, after getting the MCV4 vaccine, contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome—an autoimmune disorder. The data suggest there may be a small increase of risk in the vaccine in relation to Guillain-Barré syndrome, but the CDC recommends doctors inform parents of the investigation before the vaccination.