The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) identifies immunizations as a primary method of preventing disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) backs up this assertion with the claim vaccinations can prevent over 730,000 deaths and 21 million hospitalizations among kids born in the previous 20 years alone. The CDC also calculates $10.20 in direct medical savings for each $1 spent on vaccines.
Do not let copays dissuade you from getting the vaccinations you need. Many of the most important immunizations can be obtained for free, such as through your insurance company, nonprofit agencies, schools, employers and government programs.
For best results, medical experts recommend getting your immunizations on the recommended schedule. There are also listed catch-up periods during which you can receive each immunization later than recommended and still have it be effective. In addition to the vaccines described below as recommended for most everyone, there are other vaccines you may require depending on factors like your health condition, age, lifestyle, job and travel habits.
Immunizations for Children and Adolescents
Preventive health care for children is especially important. Every year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) sets out the immunization schedule for adolescents and children between birth and 18 years of age. Included in this schedule are recommended vaccinations and the ages at which those vaccinations should be administered. The influenza virus immunization, in particular, should first be taken annually from six months of age and onward. Before six years of age, a child may get one or two doses of the influenza immunization each year, whereas only one per year is necessary after that age.
The diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is one of the other most important immunizations for children, protecting against, among other illnesses, whooping cough. Whooping cough is responsible for killing as many as 20 babies in the U.S. each year. To protect your baby from this fate, give him or her a first dose of the DTaP vaccine at two months of age. Then, give the second dose at four months of age, the third dose at six months of age, the fourth dose between 15 and 18 months of age and the fifth and final dose between four and six years of age. As for the other most highly recommended immunizations for infants and children from birth through 18 years of age, the schedule is as follows:
- Hepatitis A – Two-dose series taken between 12 months and two years of age
- Hepatitis B – First dose at birth, the second dose between one and three months of age and the third a final dose between six and 18 years of age
- Rotavirus – First dose at two months of age, the second dose at four months of age and the possible third dose at six months of age, depending on the pediatrician’s recommendation
- Haemophilus influenzae and Pneumococcal conjugate – First doses at two months of age, the second doses at four months of age, the possible third doses at six months of age and either the third or the fourth doses between 12 and 15 months of age
- Inactivated poliovirus – First dose at two months of age, the second dose at four months of age, the third dose between six months and 18 months of age and the fourth dose between four and six years of age
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Varicella (VAR) – First doses between 12 and 15 months of age and the second doses between four and six years of age
- Meningococcal – First dose at 11 years of age and the second dose at 16 years of age
In addition, a variant of the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis immunization is recommended for adolescents between 11 and 12 years of age. Adolescents are also recommended to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization no sooner than nine years of age and no later than 15 years of age. If a child or adolescent is immunocompromised or has HIV, then he or she should not be given the measles, mumps or rubella vaccine, the varicella vaccine or the rotavirus vaccine.
Immunizations for Adults
Certain populations require special considerations regarding immunizations including adults with asplenia, immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women. The following is the recommended immunization scheduling for most adult men and women 19 years of age or older:
- Influenza – One dose per year
- Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (TDaP) – One dose after 18 years of age followed by a booster vaccine every 10 years thereafter
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) – Either one or two doses based on indications for anyone born after 1956
- Varicella – Two doses at some point in adulthood
- Recombinant zoster – Two doses starting at 50 years of age
- Live zoster vaccine – One dose before 65 years of age
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Women should get two or three doses, depending on when they start, between 19 and 26 years of age, while men should do the same between 19 and 21 years of age
- Pneumococcal – Two variants of the pneumococcal vaccine are recommended for adults 65 years of age or older
Certain additional adult immunizations are only recommended for people with certain health conditions or indicators, including hepatitis, meningitis and haemophilus influenza. In addition, certain health conditions may alter the optimal scheduling for particular immunizations, including the following:
- Immunocompromised (except HIV infection)
- HIV infection
- Asplenia complement deficiencies
- Lung or heart disease or alcoholism
- Chronic liver disease
- Health care personnel
- Men who have sex with other men
Immunizations for Pregnant Women
Preventive care for women and immunizations do not just protect you while you are pregnant, but they help to protect the baby growing inside you as well. However, certain immunizations can risk harming rather than helping your baby, even while they may benefit you. Therefore, you must know ahead of time which immunizations are necessary for you and your baby while you are pregnant and which ones should absolutely be avoided.
For starters, if you are pregnant, then you should not take the MMR immunization, varicella immunization or live zoster vaccine. All of these vaccines use live cultures and can, therefore, risk infecting rather than immunizing a baby with a still-nascent immune system. However, you should get the influenza vaccine prior to pregnancy (or during, if not taken prior) as well as the getting the TDaP vaccine, while pregnant. When you take the TDaP vaccine while you are pregnant, you will pass some of those antibodies onto your baby prior to birth, helping to protect him or her against whooping cough. You should get these vaccines each time you are pregnant.