The Vaccine Schedule for Adults and Children

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, and mumps. These preventable diseases affect both children and adults and cause a wide variety of symptoms, with outcomes ranging from mild to severe.

Children aren’t the only ones who are at risk of getting sick from preventable contagious diseases. Adults can get very sick when they have measles, mumps, and chicken pox. Measles, for example, can cause ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, or brain inflammation – and some people can die from complications.

Read below to learn how vaccines work and the vaccine schedule for adults and children.

How vaccines work

Your immune system is a warning system that recognizes germs or other cells that don’t belong in your body.

For an invading germ, called an antigen, the body creates specific antibodies from white blood cells to fight them. When a germ enters your body for the first time, it can make you sick. But as your body creates new antibodies, they work to prevent germs that return a second time from making you sick.

Vaccinations allow your body to develop antibodies specific to certain germs without making you sick. It’s done using a vaccine that introduces a dead or weakened version of the germ to your body so it can safely develop resistance to it.

Vaccine schedule for infants and children (ages 0-10)

In the early stages of a child’s life, it’s important for them to develop immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases. This schedule provides a very basic framework to help you understand which vaccines are needed when. Every year, an updated schedule for adults and children is created by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is a group of physicians and public health experts who develop recommendations for the use of vaccines for all age groups.

Children with specific conditions may need additional vaccines, or may need to avoid some of the recommended ones.

(Note: It’s a good idea to work with your doctor if you have any questions about what vaccines are needed and when they’re needed.)

infant-children-vaccine-schedule
Here is a more complete immunization schedule for people aged 0-18 years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccine schedule for teens (ages 11-18)

A few of the vaccines for teens are part of their childhood immunization schedule. These ages can also be the time to catch up on any vaccines that should have been given earlier but were missed.

Now is the time for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine – before sexual activity begins.

(Note: It’s a good idea to work with your doctor if you have any questions about what vaccines are needed and when they’re needed.)

teens-vaccine-schedule
Here is a more complete immunization schedule for people aged 0-18 years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccine schedule for adults (ages 19-65+)

Different vaccines help create immunity for different periods of time. New vaccines are created as science advances. While you may have had all your shots as a kid, you may need vaccines now that weren’t available when you were younger. And, you may need vaccines again that you’ve already had if immunity doesn’t last forever.

If you’re not sure whether you had chicken pox or measles as a child, a blood test can show if you have the antibodies and whether you need to be vaccinated.

(Note: It’s a good idea to work with your doctor if you have any questions about what vaccines are needed and when they’re needed.)

adults-vaccine-schedule
Here is a more complete immunization schedule for adults broken down by age from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Final thoughts

It’s important to recognize that this is a basic vaccine schedule for adults and children. If you have a chronic illness, a compromised immune system, or are in high risk groups, other immunizations are also important. Talk to your doctor to make sure you understand which vaccines are needed when.

Meet the Author

Angela Tonozzi, MD, MS is the System Director-Infection Prevention at Aurora Health Care in Elm Grove, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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