Do you really need to vaccinate your kids and get regular well-checks?
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The answer, says pediatrician Wadie Shabab, MD, is a resounding, “Yes!”
Vaccines are very safe and have saved children from getting many diseases, from polio to chickenpox. And being on a well-child visit schedule helps make sure your child is meeting important developmental milestones.
Dr. Shabab explains when your child needs which shot and a trip to the doctor’s office.
When does my child need shots and well-checks?
Childhood immunizations help protect your child from getting a number of illnesses. These vaccines, mostly given as shots at a well-child visit, are very safe and can help prevent easily spread diseases that can cause serious health problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- Newborn: Checkup within five days of returning home from the hospital. HBV, if not given in the hospital.
- 2–4 weeks: Well-child check. HBV if not yet given.
- 2 months: Well-child check. DTaP, Hib, IPV, PCV, HBV and rotavirus vaccines.
- 4 months: Well-child check. DTaP, Hib, IPV, PCV and rotavirus boosters.
- 6 months: Well-child check. DTaP, HBV, Hib, IPV, PCV and rotavirus boosters.
- 9 months: Well-child check. Developmental screening.
- 12 months: Well-child check. Anemia test and lead level check; TB screening; MMR, varicella and HAV vaccines; PCV booster.
- 15 months: Well-child check. DTaP and Hib boosters.
- 18 months: Well-child check. Developmental and autism screenings; HAV booster.
- 24 months: Well-child check. Lead level check; TB screenings.
- 30 months: Well-child check. Developmental and autism screenings.
- 3 years: Annual well-child check. Vision/hearing screenings.
- 4–6 years: Annual well-child check. Vision/hearing screenings; DTaP, IPV, MMR and varicella boosters.
- 7–10 years: Annual well-child check. Vision/hearing and TB screenings; any immunizations previously missed.
- 11–12 years: Annual well-child check. Depression and TB screenings; DTaP, HPV and MCV4 vaccines.
- 13–15 years: Annual well-child check. Depression, vision/hearing and TB screenings; any immunizations missed (like MCV4, DTaP or HPV).
- 16–18 years: Annual well-child check. Depression, vision/hearing and TB screenings; MCV4 booster at age 16 and start Men B vaccination.
- Yearly (beginning at six months): Influenza/flu vaccine (a one-time booster shot is needed a month after your child’s first flu vaccination if they’re younger than 9 years old); COVID-19 vaccine. (Currently, we do recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children and adolescents 6 months of age and older, as long as they don’t have any contraindications for these vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. COVID-19 vaccines can be lifesaving for some children and can be administered with other vaccines.)
DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis vaccine.
HAV: Hepatitis A vaccine.
HBV: Hepatitis B vaccine.
Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type B, or flu.
HPV: Human papillomavirus vaccine.
IPV: Inactivated polio vaccine.
MCV4: Meningococcal conjugate serotype A, C, W and Y vaccine for meningitis.
Men B: Meningococcal Serotype B vaccine for meningitis.
MMR: Measles/mumps/rubella vaccine.
PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for meningitis.
Rotavirus: Vaccine against potentially life-threatening diarrhea.
TB: Tuberculosis screening.
Varicella: Chickenpox vaccine.
Why well-check visits are important
It’s essential that you stick to a well-child check schedule. Making sure your child is up to date on recommended vaccines is vital for your child’s health.
Children who aren’t vaccinated are more likely to contract diseases like whooping cough and measles. These diseases are highly contagious and can become serious health issues.
Additionally, well-checks are necessary to track and document your child’s growth and developmental and behavioral milestones. During a well-check visit, parents and caregivers can discuss any concerns they have when it comes to vaccinations and their child’s overall health.
“Children grow and develop fast — and the rate of this growth is the fastest in the first three years of life,” notes Dr. Shabab. “Your healthcare provider will monitor your child’s weight, height, BMI, vital signs, hearing, vision, developmental/behavioral milestones, lead, TB and other screening tests at the appropriate age and interval during their well-child visits.
“This information, along with discussing your child’s diet, sleeping, academic achievement, screen time and safety, will help your provider in partnering with you in maintaining and helping your child reach their health and developmental goals.”