Remembering DTaP vaccine at 15–18 months key to series success
Wow, are there a lot of things to remember during the first two years of raising a baby. From checkups to nutrition, it’s no wonder parents can get overwhelmed. And just when we think we’ve made it through, along comes a very important vaccination during a relatively quiet period—and well after all the other shots have been received.
This all-important shot is the last of the DTaP Series. It provides the critical final dose against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The shot is usually administered when your baby is between fifteen and eighteen months old. However, data suggests parents are forgetting this vaccination with regularity. The fact that this period of time falls outside of typical pediatric checkups makes the dose hard to remember. However, the DTaP vaccine is required for entry to day care centers, preschools, and other child minding and education programs.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is determined to make sure every new Ohioan receives his or her vital final shot in the DTaP Series. ODH recommends parents request or download the “2017 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth through 6 Years Old” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This easy-to-read graphic illustrates exactly when your child should receive all vaccinations. As each vaccine is received, parents can block out the calendar to keep visual track of upcoming vaccination appointments.
The CDC offers several other materials, including a helpful chart that details “Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them.” As with chickenpox, hepatitis, and other childhood vaccinations, the CDC publishes a DTaP Vaccine Information Sheet, which explains “what, why and when” children should get vaccinated. The typical dosage cycle for the DTaP vaccine is at two months, four months, six months, and fifteen to eighteen months, with a follow-up vaccine between the age of four and six.
According to the information statement, “Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts or wounds.” All three diseases are caused by bacteria and can lead to death in the worst cases. Diphtheria causes a thick covering of the throat that can impede breathing and cause paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Tetanus, aka lockjaw, sometimes causes the jaw to lock so that the victim cannot open his or her mouth or swallow. Alarmingly, tetanus causes death in 20 percent of its victims.
Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, afflicts children with a heavy cough that prevents the ability to eat, drink, and breath and can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and fatality. Highly contagious, whooping cough can rapidly spread among unvaccinated children and last for weeks.
Of course, like any medicine, the DTaP vaccination can cause side effects in some children. However, the CDC states that the risks of foregoing the DTaP vaccine greatly outweigh the relatively rare difficulties from receiving the series.
About 25 percent of children contract a fever and have swelling or soreness at the point where the vaccine was received. Some children may also appear more fussy or tired, lose their appetite, or experience nausea. Other responses are quite uncommon; for example, 1 child in 14,000 may experience a seizure, and 1 in 16,000 may draw a fever in excess of 105ºF. More severe reactions are extremely rare, so much that several are thought be coincidental. The CDC emphasizes that any concerned parent should consult with a physician or contact the ODH or CDC.
The four-part DTaP series provides smaller doses that greatly reduce the potential for side effects. However, a successful vaccine series is wholly dependent upon a child receiving all four vaccinations, including the final vaccine at fifteen to eighteen months old.
Parenting remains our most cherished responsibility, requiring us to nurture, educate, and protect. This awesome opportunity occupies much of our time, especially when our children are at their most vulnerable stage and dependent upon us. The DTaP series and today’s other vaccinations provide an unprecedented advantage to protect our young children.
Input the DTaP vaccine onto your child’s checkup calendar or your calendar app today to ensure that he or she will be protected against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough throughout the early years and beyond.