Common childhood vaccines and the diseases they protect against

If you’ve just seen your little one’s first-year vaccine schedule, you might want to know more about what exactly those vaccines will protect against. Because vaccines have been such a powerful tool to eradicate, lessen, and prevent some major illnesses, many of which haven’t been around for a generation, it can be hard to know just what it means if a child gets one of these illnesses. Here are some common vaccines administered in childhood and the diseases they protect against:

The DTaP vaccine protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis (whooping cough). These diseases are all spread by bacteria.

  • Diphtheria causes a sore throat, fever, weakness, and swollen glands and can lead to serious heart complications.
  • Tetanus causes fever, muscle spasms and stiffness, and can lead to broken bones and serious breathing complications.
  • Pertussis, or whooping cough, causes severe, extended coughing spells and trouble breathing. It can lead to pneumonia (lung infection) and other serious complications, and serious cases can result in death.

The HepA vaccine protects against hepatitis A, a liver disease that is spread through personal contact or contaminated water or food. Symptoms can include fever, weakness, and vomiting, or the person can have no symptoms. Hepatitis A can cause problems with the liver, kidney, or pancreas, joint pain, or blood disorders. Infection and recovery can take months, if not longer.

The HepB vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a different form of liver disease spread through blood or body fluids. Much like Hepatitis A, symptoms may include fever, weakness, vomiting, or no symptoms. Hepatitis B can cause jaundice, severe stomach pains, and major liver complications.

The influenza vaccine protects against the flu. Flu usually spreads around the U.S. during the winter months through coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Common symptoms of the flu include fever, aches, fatigue, cough, and sore throat. Serious cases can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and death.

The Hib vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B. The germs of this disease are spread through direct contact and through the air, and if the bacteria enters the bloodstream or lungs, it can cause bacterial meningitis (infection in the brain and spinal cord), intellectual disability, breathing problems, pneumonia, and acute infections. Serious cases can result in death.

The Inactivated poliovirus, or IPV, vaccine helps protect against polio. This disease is spread through air, direct contact, or through the mouth. While initially, polio may cause no symptoms or mild symptoms — like fever, nausea, or sore throat — if left untreated, it can lead to crippling paralysis or death.

Mumps can cause fever, swollen glands, and aches. Serious cases can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, and deafness.

The MMR vaccine protects against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. These diseases are spread through air or direct contact.

  • Measles can cause fever, rash, and cough. Serious cases can lead to encephalitis (brain swelling), pneumonia, hearing loss and death.
  • Mumps can cause fever, swollen glands, and aches. Serious cases can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, and deafness.
  • Rubella can cause rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It can be very serious in pregnant women and can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, or birth defects.

The Pneumococcal conjugate protects against Pneumococcal pneumonia. While this disease doesn’t show symptoms frequently, it can lead to pneumonia, blood infection, and meningitis. Serious cases can lead to death. 

Rotavirus (RV). Spread through the mouth, rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration. It’s also highly contagious to other members of the family.

The VAR vaccine protects against Varicella, or chickenpox. Chickenpox is spread through direct contact and causes rash and fevers. Serious cases can lead to bleeding disorders, pneumonia, or encephalitis.  

The COVID-19 vaccine protects against – you guessed it – COVID-19. Annual vaccines, like for flu, will likely become the norm as years pass. Vaccination can help decrease symptoms, reduce community spread and help to prevent long-Covid symptoms. 

Newer on the scene is a preventative shot for RSV. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, can cause mild cold-like symptoms in some children but may also cause severe breathing difficulties for others. It’s a common cause of ER visits and hospitalization for children. Children 8 months and under are eligible for this shot, and some high-risk older children may also be candidates.

Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools of preventative medicine to help keep Baby safe and protected against serious disease and illness. Talk to your pediatric provider about how to stay up to date today!


Sources
  • “Immunizations.” healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved January 3, 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/default.aspx.
  • “Q&A on vaccines.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, August 26, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2020. https://www.who.int/vaccines/questions-and-answers.
  • “2020 Recommended Vaccinations for Infants and Children (birth through 6 years) Parent-Friendly Version.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 3, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child-easyread.html.
  • “Vaccines for your children.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 18, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html.
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