Vaccine Schedule: A Detailed Look

Vaccine Schedule: A Detailed Look

Vaccines are a major part of modern medical science and they help to keep millions of people around the world protected from preventable diseases and illnesses.

In the United States, doctors and health professionals follow a vaccine schedule put in place by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which begins at birth and continues into your adult years.

So, what is included in the vaccine schedule for the United States?

From the very first vaccination at birth, a hepatitis B shot, to the continuing annual flu shots, there is a range of vaccines on the schedule. Each is recommended by the CDC to keep Americans healthy and safe from contracting otherwise preventable diseases.

Your health practitioner will be able to inform you of what vaccinations are required when, and these may change depending on the patient’s health, where they live, and what vaccinations are available.

Some might even be combined to reduce the number of shots, but again, it depends on the individual’s circumstances.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the latest recommendations for 2020 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to give you an idea of what to expect and when you can expect them.

There are shots for infants, children, adolescents, and adults, each with some information on what they involve, and a background of what they’re protecting you from.

The Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule

As soon as a baby is born, there is a list of recommended vaccinations that they should be receiving.

During the first year of life, infants receive vaccines on a standard schedule that needs to be adhered to at the correct months and ages for them to work effectively.

After they turn one, there are a few more vaccinations required according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s schedule for 2020.

Vaccines from Birth to 6 years



This vaccine protects against chickenpox which can cause serious illness or even death, especially in the case of young children.

The varicella vaccine is given at 12 months of age to protect against serious complications like bleeding disorders, encephalitis, and pneumonia. There is usually a need to repeat this vaccine in adulthood as a form of booster shot.


DTaP stands for Diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis, and is a combined shot which includes immunity against all three diseases.

This vaccine prevents a serious infection of the throat and nose as well as whooping cough and tetanus infections, so it’s very important.

The dose can be given from just two months old for babies and is often recommended for pregnant mothers. Complications from these diseases can be fatal or severe including coma, heart failure, and paralysis.


The HiB vaccination is given between 12 and 18 months old.

This specific vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b. HiB prevents serious complications including meningitis, epiglottis, and pneumonia, and can be deadly in children and infants.

The symptoms of this disease affect the airways, brain, ears, and skin, which is especially worrying for babies and young children.


This vaccine is recommended between 12 and 24 months old to prevent hepatitis A and requires more than one shot.

This disease can be contracted through direct contact or even contaminated food and water, which is why a vaccine is crucial. The HepA vaccine is a two-dose vaccination with the first given between 12 and 23 months and the second given exactly 6 months after it.


HepB is the very first vaccination that your baby will require, and it is recommended to be given as soon as they are born. Most hospitals will have the facility to give them this shot within their first 24 hours.

There are serious complications that can occur from HepB, especially for infants, which include liver cancer or chronic liver infection, making this a very important vaccine.

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine protects against influenza which can cause symptoms like fatigue, fever, and joint pain.

Doctors usually recommend that a mother get a flu shot while they are pregnant to pass immunity to their baby, and then their first shot can be received after six months old.

Two doses need to be given with at least four weeks between them if it’s their first time. This is an annual vaccine that aims to protect for the entire year.


The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is a triple dose vaccine that protects against all three of these diseases with the one shot. They’re given together as a safety measure to reduce the number of vaccination needles that a child has to receive.

The first time the MMR vaccine is given is from 12 months old. Each of these diseases has its own symptoms and complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, meningitis, deafness, and even death.


The IPV vaccine is to protect against polio, which can have symptoms including headache, fever, and sore throat.

The recommended age range for this vaccine is from 6 to 18 months of age and can prevent serious complications including death and paralysis. Thankfully, the IPV vaccine has helped to reduce polio rates dramatically around the world.


The PCV13 vaccine is to protect the body against pneumococcus caused by the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae.

This disease can be fatal for both children and adults, and lead to other serious complications including meningitis and blood infections. The first dose can be given from two months of age if needed, with a recommended age range from 12 to 18 months.


The rotavirus vaccine is unique in that it is administered orally, and over two to three separate doses.

This vaccine prevents against rotavirus which can lead to severe dehydration in children from vomiting and diarrhea. The recommended dose for this is at 2, 4, and 6 months to give complete protection, and it features a live virus.

Vaccines from 7 to 18 years



The tetanus, Diptheria, and pertussis vaccine needs to be administered again after the initial dose during their baby years.

The TDaP vaccine should be given at 11 – 12 years old and only requires one more shot. This provides a booster shot for the body to ensure the child is protected through adolescence.


Meningococcal disease is serious and can be fatal, especially in children.

This vaccine is recommended for 11 through 12 year olds with one shot of meningococcal conjugate given, and another at age 16 in the form of a booster shot.

Complications from meningococcal can be as serious as death but also include deafness, loss of limbs, and stroke.

Flu Vaccine

As is recommended during infancy and childhood, the flu vaccine should be given to children aged 7 to 18 years old as well.

This is an annual shot that can be administered before flu season or whenever recommended by a health professional. Complications from influenza include pneumonia which can lead to death, regardless of age group.


The human papillomavirus is the cause of cervical, anal, and vaginal cancers, among others. This vaccine is given to 11 to 12 years olds and consists of a two shot series.

Anyone with a weakened immune system or later start date is recommended to get a three shot series for extra protection.

Additional Vaccines

In addition to the recommended vaccines, there are others that should be given depending on the child’s circumstances.

If a child is catching up on missed vaccines or if they’re at increased risk for certain diseases, then your healthcare practitioner will be able to let you know what’s required.

The Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule


The US adult vaccine schedule is for people aged 19 years and over and includes some annual immunizations as well as boosters and others.

These are the recommended vaccinations included, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as of 2020.

Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine should be continued as an annual shot even into adulthood, and especially for the elderly.

With pneumonia being the most serious complication, vulnerable groups like the elderly must be protected, so staying up to date with a yearly flu shot is essential.


The tetanus, Diptheria, and pertussis vaccine is one that should also be continued through adulthood. After your initial shot in childhood, you should get one TDaP vaccine every 10 years as a booster to protect yourself from these diseases.

TDaP is also given for pregnant women as an effective way to protect their babies and also prevent the spread of whooping cough during infancy.


The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine may need to be given in adulthood as either 1 or 2 doses. This depends on whether you were born after 1957, and therefore would need an additional shot.


If born after 1980, you may be required two doses of the varicella vaccine in adulthood to protect against chickenpox.

You can be tested for evidence of immunity to varicella and then given the corresponding dose depending on the result. After 50 years of age, you may be required to get another two shot series of the varicella vaccine for continued protection.


The human papillomavirus vaccine is required for all adults up to 26 years of age, but the dose will depend on previous immunization.

If you were 15 or older at your first vaccine, you may need a three dose serious for protection. HPV vaccine prevents many types of cancer including cervical and anal, and is essential for teens and adults.


The zoster vaccine is to protect against shingles which can be especially damaging in adulthood. This disease occurs after reactivation of varicella-zoster, or chickenpox, and travels through the nerve system.

The routine vaccination for shingles is given from 50 years of age in a two dose series, or one dose if given after 60 years old. Sometimes, the zoster vaccine is also recommended in pregnancy or for those who are severely immunocompromised.

Additional Vaccines

As with children, there may be other vaccinations recommended depending on the individual.

Those with preexisting medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes will require additional vaccinations, and during pregnancy, mothers will be required to get their flu and whooping cough vaccine to give protection to their babies.

Other instances include those traveling overseas or living in households with immunocompromised people.

Related Questions

Vaccinations are an important part of staying healthy and protected from preventable diseases at all stages of life.

Being educated on their purpose and the potential risks should be a priority for everyone, so we’ve answered some commonly asked questions about vaccinations to ease your mind.

Are Vaccinations Mandatory?

Although there are vaccines recommended by health professionals, there are currently none that are mandatory.

In some US states, children are required to be vaccinated in order to attend public schools, unless a religious exemption can be proven. In the case of an emergency outbreak, forced vaccination may be recommended, but it’s extremely rare.

Can Vaccination Be Dangerous?

As with any form of medical intervention, there is always a slight risk when it comes to receiving a vaccination.

These immunizations come with side effects that should be considered. The most common side effects are mild including redness and swelling of the injection site or a mild fever, but it differs for each one.

Are Vaccinations Totally Effective?

Although vaccines aim to be completely effective at preventing a specific disease, there is no guarantee that it will be 100% protective, which is why the reliance of vaccines is a public health matter.

The duration of immunology offered also differs depending on the vaccine and person, which is why boosters are recommended for some of them.

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