Experts regularly meet to determine the most appropriate schedule for children to receive their immunizations against infectious diseases. The newest schedule has just been released.
The American Academy of Pediatricians just issued its policy statement on the recommended vaccines for children and teens for 2013.
The vaccine schedule was redesigned to make it easier to read and includes necessary footnotes. It also includes changes related to the vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
The tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine for children is called the DTaP, and the teen and adult version is called the Tdap. Pertussis is also called whooping cough, and outbreaks of this disease were at record high levels this past year.
Babies under 2 months old cannot get the DTaP and are at the highest level of risk for death from pertussis.
Therefore, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the recommendation last year that pregnant teens and adults receive the Tdap during every pregnancy they have.
The committee hopes this will reduce the likelihood of deaths from pertussis among newborns and babies under 2 months because they may receive some protection from their mothers.
Another more minor change is that children aged 15 months or older should only receive one dose of the vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
The design of the immunization schedule has changed as well. Previously, there were two separate schedules: one for children from birth to age 6 and a separate one for youth aged 7 to 18.
Now, one single page includes all the immunizations for individuals from birth through age 18. There are also additional columns included for 4- to 6-year-olds and 11- to 12-year-olds that show the vaccines typically required for most public schools.
The next four pages of the new schedule include the footnotes, which have also been combined from the younger and older kids' schedules and the catch-up schedule.
No changes were made to the catch-up schedule designed for children or teens who begin receiving their immunizations late or are more than one month behind on the schedule.
The statement also reminds parents and doctors that any adverse events that occur after a child receives a vaccine should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
In addition to the approval by the AAP, the new schedules were approved by the ACIP at the CDC and by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The new statement was published January 28 in the journal Pediatrics. The schedules are also available on the CDC website.