How Many Shots Do Kids Get Now?

Now that it is the middle of the flu season, it might be well for grandparents to be aware of the shots their grandchildren get routinely and why.

Measles cases reported in the United States be...

The list of CDC-recommended shots for preventable diseases has expanded from when our children were young.

Shots start at 2 months. Most are finished by the age of 18.

  • Rotavirus
  • Diptheria, pertussis, tetanus (DTaP)
  • Haemophilus influenza type b (HIB)
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio
  • Influenza
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningococcus
  • Human papillomavirus

When our children were young, it was four:

  • DPT
  • MMR
  • Smallpox
  • Polio

What Has Changed?

It is estimated that of the 30-year increase in lifespan in the 20th century, 25 years can be attributed to improved public health.

Of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) top 10 medical accomplishments in public health in the 20th century, vaccination is at the top of the list.


Rotovirus causes severe diarrhea in children.

It was discovered in 1973.

A vaccine was licensed for it in the U.S. in 1998.

In 2009, the World Health Organization recommended that it be included in all children’s vaccination schedules.

Most develop immunities and outgrow it by adulthood.

In the United States, before the vaccination was available, 2.7 million children were affected annually, 60,000 of them hospitalized, 37 died.

Even now, more than 450,000 children will die a year, most in developing countries.


DTaP is a variation of the DPT vaccination our children received.

It is for Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis.

DTaP is considered safer, with fewer side effects.

It was developed in Japan in 1981.

Diptheria has been nearly wiped out in the U.S.

There were three cases between 2000 and 2007.

In 1927, there were 100,000 cases of diphtheria, with 10,000 deaths, mostly children.

Haemophilus influenza type b (HIB)

In infants and young children, HIB can cause pneumonia and meningitis.

Prior to the vaccine, HIB was the leading cause of childhood meningitis and pneumonia, with 20,000 cases a year in the 1980s, mostly in children under 5.

The HIB vaccination has been routine in the U.S. since 1990 and its associated diseases have declined by 99 percent.


The pneumococal infection can cause ear infections and pneumonia.

Those with sickle-cell disease or compromised immune systems or lung capacity, as with HIV, or Hepatitis C or COPD, or who smoke, are at higher risk.

In 2000, the vaccine was recommended for all children aged 2-23 months in the U.S.

Estimates of damage include:

  • 175,000 admitted to a hospital in a year with pneumococcal pneumonia, with 5-7% of deaths
  • 3,000 to 6,000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis a year, with 30% deaths.
  • 28%-55% of the 5 million annual cases of ear infection in the U.S., the most common reason for visits to the pediatrician


Polio vaccines were developed in the 1950s.

In 1980, there were 52,000 cases of polio worldwide.

Aggressive vaccination programs, led by Rotary International and several international health organizations, have eradicated polio in most countries.

The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994, China in 2000, Europe in 2002.

Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan still have polio, and outbreaks occasionally spread to neighboring countries.

In 2011, there were 716 reported cases of polio.


Wash your hands. The flu virus can be inactivated with soap and water.

We still have three to five million cases of flu a year, with 250,000 to 500,000 deaths.

Children under two are considered to be at the same risk of hospitalization and complications as the elderly if they get the flu, though not as high a risk for death.

School-age children have the highest rates of getting the flu.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual flu shots for children.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Developed in the 1960s, both my children had the combined measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) shot.

By contrast, I remember walking downstairs to breakfast one day, at the age of 8.

The look on my mother’s face made me start to cry.

She knew right away, by the red dots all over my face, and, soon, by my fever, that I had the measles.

The treatment at the time was to stay in bed in a darkened room until it was gone, usually three or four days.

It was summer.

Mom made my younger brother, who hadn’t had the measles yet, bring me my meals, so he’d get it too before school started.

And, he did.

German measles, the kind that lasted two weeks, was only spoken of in hushed terms in my childhood, because of the danger of birth defects if a pregnant woman were exposed.

There were hundreds of thousands of cases of measles before the vaccination was introduced in 1963.

There have been fewer than 200 cases a year since 1997.

The U.S. declared that measles was eliminated in 2000.

Varicella (chicken pox)

I remember the misery of chicken pox when my older son got it. The itching was unbearable.

Like these other childhood diseases, chicken pox is highly contagious, so it could run through a school.

Though chicken pox is rarely fatal, it can be dangerous for pregnant women, leading to a number of effects on the fetus, ranging from brain damage to underdeveloped fingers and toes.

It can also lead, years later, to shingles.

As it happens, there is now a vaccination for shingles.

The chicken pox vaccine became available in the U.S. in 1995.

Aspirin should not be used for children under 16 with chicken pox.

Aspirin has been associated with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.

Reye’s Syndrome nearly took my nephew as a child after he had chicken pox before my persistent brother and a new pediatrician finally identified it and quickly hospitalized him.

Hepatitis A

The vaccine for Hepatitis A, also called HepA or HAV, was introduced in 1992.

With an aggressive vaccination schedule in the U.S., the incidence of the disease has dropped by 90%.

Though deaths are rare, an outbreak in Ohio in 2003 affected 640 people and killed four.

It was traced to tainted green onions at a Pennsylvania restaurant.

The disease is typically mild for children. Severity and complications increase with age after 50.

The CDC recommends that all children over one year get the vaccine.

It is the most common vaccine-preventable virus you can get from traveling.

Travelers to Eastern Europe, Central and South America, the Far East and Africa should be vaccinated.


Meningococcus is the cause of meningitis and sepsis, both highly infectious and potentially fatal.

Even with antibiotics, it is fatal in 10 percent of cases.

Survivors can still lose their hearing, suffer brain damage or lose a limb.

One of the few times I have heard a doctor swear was in the corridor of a hospital outside the room where my husband was recovering from surgery.

A patient had just been brought in to the other bed in my husband’s room.

I realized there was a problem when I heard my husband’s doctor yelling on the phone at someone responsible for room assignments.

“I don’t care where you put him. You can’t put a meningitis patient in the same room as my surgical patient!”

That was in 1975.

There are still about 2,600 cases of bacterial meningitis in the U.S. a year, 10 – 20% of them fatal.

The highest number of cases are in children 3-12 months old.

Human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, may cause no symptoms, may cause warts, or, rarely, cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus.

It is now linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and throat cancer.

While PAP smears have reduced cervical cancer rates, there were still 11,000 cases and 3,900 deaths in 2008 in the U.S.

Since HPV vaccines prevent infection from the virus responsible for 70% of cervical cancers, it is believed these numbers will soon go down further.

The first HPV vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006.

As of 2007, about one-quarter of girls in the U.S. between 13 and 17 had at least one of the three shots.

It is only mandatory for school attendance in Virginia and Washington, DC.


In 1900, the only vaccination given to children was for smallpox.

Boomers all have smallpox vaccination scars.

The last naturally-occuring case of smallpox was in 1977.


Did you know your grandchildren can get shots for chicken pox and measles now?

Did you know if you’ve had chicken pox you are at higher risk for shingles?

Do you know anyone who had Reye’s Syndrome?

To you and enjoying the protection of vaccinations for your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru, Grandma to two awesome grandchildren

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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