POSTED FEBRUARY 14, 2017
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications
Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) update the recommendations for immunizing children from birth to 18 years. This past week, the latest changes were published.
The changes are usually small, and this year is no exception. But they are important — and they are a sign of how these organizations, and all the scientists who study immunization, take immunization effectiveness and safety very seriously. There is ongoing research to be sure that vaccines do everything we want them to do. As that research is done, discoveries are made that change what happens when kids come in for their checkups and shots.
Sometimes the changes in the schedule aren’t actually changes. Sometimes the experts want to emphasize something about a vaccine that not everyone knows — and sometimes they tweak the way the schedule looks to make it easier to read and understand.
Here are the latest changes, reminders and tweaks:
- There are two for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine:
- – A reminder that it can be given as early as age 9-10, something many people don’t realize
- – And a reason to start early: if kids get the first dose of vaccine before their 15thbirthday, they only need 2 doses (6 months apart) instead of the previously recommended 3 doses. Anyone who starts on or after the 15th birthday still needs those three doses
- The LAIV or nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is officially out of the schedule (since it was found not to work very well)
- Babies should get their first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine within the first 24 hours of life, if possible, to give the best protection in case of an undiscovered infection in the mother.
- Pregnant adolescents (like all pregnant women) should get a dose of TdaP vaccine between 27-36 weeks of pregnancy.
- A separate column was added to the schedule for 16-year-olds to emphasize that they should get a booster dose of the meningococcal vaccine.
- A new tab was added to help doctors know which vaccines are recommended for children with special health conditions. For example, children with sickle cell disease, chronic heart disease, severe asthma, as well as certain kidney and immune system problems should get the PPV23 version of the pneumococcal vaccine along with the one routinely given in infancy.
The schedules, both for routine immunization and for catching up when kids get behind, can be found on both the CDC and AAP websites. Check them out, and let your doctor know if you have any questions.