The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains three schedules for recommended vaccinations: one for children 0-6 years old, another for children 7-18 years old, and a third for adults 19 and older. At first glance, the recommended vaccines can seem like a lot, but many are required to enroll in public schools and colleges, and there is a good reason for each one.
See below for a the current CDC vaccination schedules, as well as information on each disease the vaccinations are protecting against.
An infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This form of coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets of saliva or nostril fluid.
- Who should get the vaccine? Available vaccines come in one or two dose options for everyone 12 years and older. The vaccine helps your body develop immunity to the virus, protecting you from getting sick. Check state and local guidelines for vaccination availability in your area.
- Transmission: COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets released from a person’s mouth or nose when breathing, sneezing, or coughing. Inhaling air or small droplets that contain the virus spreads the disease from one person to another.
- Symptoms: Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, headache, fever, cough, and body aches. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can appear 2-14 days after transmission.
- Prognosis: Although most people with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, older adults and people with certain underlying medical conditions may develop serious complications.
This vaccine helps prevent three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
- Who should get the vaccine? Everyone. A five-dose vaccine is available for children between the ages of two months and six years; teenagers should receive their next DTaP vaccination at age 19, and then every 10 years for the rest of their lives.
An airborne infection caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria.
- Transmission: The disease is spread person-to-person, usually through “respiratory droplets” secreted during a cough or sneeze. It may also spread from sores or lesions on the skin, as well as clothing or other items that have been contaminated from the discharge of lesions or sores.
- Symptoms: Lack of energy, sore throat, fever, and/or swollen neck glands.
- Prognosis: Complications from diphtheria include airway blockage, cardiovascular damage, nerve inflammation/polyneuropathy, paralysis, lung infection, and death. One out of ten diphtheria patients who receive treatment do not survive the infection; without treatment, the disease has a mortality rate of 50%.
An infection caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria.
- Transmission: The tetanus bacteria lives in the soil, and is transmitted to humans through cuts or burns rendered from physical contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
- Symptoms: Headaches, stiff jaw, muscle spasms, body aches, difficulty swallowing, seizures, fever, uncontrollable sweating, and/or increases in heart rate.
- Prognosis: Complications from tetanus include laryngospasm (involuntary vocal chord contraction), fractured or broken bones, arterial blockage, pneumonia, and difficulty breathing. The mortality rate for tetanus is 10 to 20%.
An airborne respiratory infection, also known as whooping cough, caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria.
- Transmission: The disease is spread person-to-person, usually through respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing.
- Symptoms: Runny nose, low fever, mild cough, and apnea, usually appearing one to two weeks after transmission; advanced symptoms include rapid cough, vomiting, and exhaustion.
- Prognosis: Although anyone may become seriously ill due to pertussis, infants are especially vulnerable. One in four young victims will develop pneumonia, one in 100 will die, and one in 300 will develop encephalopathy (brain swelling). In teens and adults, some of the most common complications include extreme weight loss, chronic nausea, and rib fractures caused by harsh coughing.
The vaccine for an acute viral disease that primarily affects the liver.
- Who should get the vaccine? Children between the ages of 12 and 23 months, as well as adults who have experienced liver failure or work in a medical/clinical setting (where exposure to sick people is commonplace)
- Transmission: Hepatitis A is transmitted through ingestion of fecal matter, usually from person-to-person contact or exposure to contaminated food and drink items.
- Symptoms: Jaundice of the skin or eyes, fatigue, nausea, and/or loss of appetite; though many carriers remain asymptomatic.
- Prognosis: The mortality rate for hepatitis A is relatively low, although liver failure is common among lifelong carriers.
The vaccine for an acute liver disease caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus.
- Who should get the vaccine? A three-dose vaccine is available for children that begins at birth and ends at 18 months. Adult vaccinations are recommended for adults who have suffered liver failure or work in a field that commonly involves exposure to sick people.
- Transmission: Hepatitis B may be spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or other bodily liquids; transmission most commonly occurs through sexual intercourse, childbirth (mother-to-child), and sharing of needles, razors, or other instruments that draw blood.
- Symptoms: Fever, body fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, discolored urine, clay-colored stool, joint pain, and jaundice of the skin and eyes; carriers may remain asymptomatic. Only a blood test can confirm a Hepatitis infection.
- Prognosis: Although some people infected with hepatitis B will shed the disease as quickly as six months, others will develop lifelong chronic conditions; generally, younger victims are the most susceptible to developing chronic infections.
This vaccine helps prevent meningitis, pneumonia, bacteremia, and other infections caused by the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria.
- Who should get the vaccine? A vaccine consisting of three to four doses is recommended for children between the ages of 2 months and 15 months.
- Transmission: Hib is transmitted person-to-person through respiratory droplets secreted during sneezing or coughing.
- Symptoms: The symptoms will vary depending on the infection caused by Hib.
- Meningitis: Fever, headache, stiffness in neck or body, nausea, vomiting, severe light sensitivity (photophobia), and/or an altered mental state.
- Pneumonia: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, excessive sweating, chest pain in conjunction with breathing, headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue.
- Bacteremia: Fever, chills, fatigue, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, extreme anxiety, and/or an altered mental state.
- Prognosis: Certain Hib strains can live within the body for extended periods of time without causing an infection; major complications occur when the infection enters areas of the body usually free of germs, such as the blood or spinal fluid. Advanced complications include mental deterioration/brain damage, loss of limbs, and death.
A sexually transmitted disease linked to cancers in the female reproductive system.
- Who should get the vaccine? Males and females 26 years of age or younger; young people are urged to obtain the vaccine before their first sexual intercourse experience.
- Transmission: HPV is spread through sexual contact, usually through the genitals or anus.
- Symptoms: Genital warts that can spread to the throat and/or cancer of the cervix, ovaries, anus, penis, or throat; although most carriers remain asymptomatic.
- Prognosis: The immune systems of roughly 90% of carriers will suppress HPV within two years. But as stated above, male and female carriers may develop serious infections (such as cancer) from exposure to HPV.
The vaccination for an airborne infection commonly referred to as ‘the flu.’
- Who should get the vaccine? Everyone, beginning at birth, should obtain the Hib vaccine on an annual basis.
- Transmission: Influenza is a highly contagious airborne illness caused by the influenza virus, and is spread by exposure to infected individuals who are coughing, sneezing, or simply speaking.
- Symptoms: Fever (in most cases), cough, runny nose, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and/or headaches.
- Prognosis: Most individuals who contract influenza will experience a period of severe sickness that can last up to one or two weeks. High-risk populations, including the elderly, infants, and individuals with chronic diseases, are susceptible to advanced symptoms, which include death.
This vaccine helps prevent three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Who should get the vaccine? A two-dose vaccine is available for children between the ages of 12 months and 12 years. This vaccine may be offered in conjunction with the varicella vaccine.
- Measles: A highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the measles virus.
- Transmission: Measles is an airborne disease spread through exposure to infected individuals who are coughing, sneezing, and/or breathing.
- Symptoms: Runny nose, cough, and/or a fever ― though it’s most commonly characterized by a severe rash that covers the entire body.
- Prognosis: If untreated, measles can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, and death.
- Mumps: An airborne disease caused by the mumps virus.
- Transmission: Mumps is spread person-to-person through saliva or mucus in the nose, mouth, or throat.
- Symptoms: Fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and swollen salivary glands.
- Prognosis: If untreated, mumps can lead to swelling of the cheek and jaw, as well as inflammation of the testicles, ovaries, breasts, brain tissue, and spinal cord.
- Rubella: An acute viral infection, also known as German measles, that can cause a serious rash.
- Transmission: Rubella is usually spread through exposure to respiratory droplets secreted through coughing or sneezing by infected individuals.
- Symptoms: A fever that persists for up to three days and/or a severe rash that covers the entire body.
- Prognosis: Pregnant women who contract rubella may produce children with birth defects (including deafness, cataracts, and mental retardation).
The vaccine that helps prevent the respiratory disease known as meningococcal meningitis (also known as meningococcus), which is caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.
- Who should get the vaccine? A two-dose vaccine is available for teenagers between the ages of 11 and 16; young people who plan to attend college are strongly encouraged to obtain this vaccine.
- Transmission: Meningococcal is most commonly spread through saliva during kissing and sexual activity.
- Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, extreme light sensitivity (photophobia), and an altered mental state.
- Prognosis: Meningococcal meningitis is often treated with antibiotics if detected right away, and a lumbar puncture (or ‘spinal tap’) treatment may follow; in many cases, however, the disease will have spread throughout the body by the time antibiotics are administered. Long-term complications include brain damage, loss of limbs, and death.
This vaccine helps prevent polio, an infection caused by a virus that originates in the throat and intestinal tract.
- Who should get the vaccine? A four-dose vaccine is available for children between the ages of two months and six years.
- Transmission: Polio is spread by person-to-person contact, although it is rarely encountered today.
- Symptoms: Nearly three-quarters of people who contract polio will remain asymptomatic; the remaining segment will experience symptoms like fever, fatigue, nausea, and stiffness of the head and neck.
- Prognosis: If untreated, polio can lead to permanent disability, partial or full paralysis, and death.
This vaccine helps prevent 23 different strains of the Pneumococcal bacteria.
- Who should get the vaccine? Anyone over the age of 65, as well as any individual between the ages of 24 months and 64 years with a history of addiction or chronic disease is eligible to receive this vaccination.
- Transmission: Pneumococcal is spread person-to-person through mucus, saliva, and other respiratory fluids.
- Symptoms: Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, irregular breathing, and/or chest pain.
- Prognosis: Although most cases are mild, advanced complications may include hearing loss, brain damage, and death. Young children and the elderly are considered especially vulnerable.
This is the vaccine for rotavirus, a disease that causes gastroenteritis (a painful inflammation in the digestive system).
- Who should get the vaccine? A vaccine consisting of two to three doses is available for children between the ages of two and six months.
- Transmission: Rotavirus is transmitted from person-to-person via the feces or stool of infected children and adults.
- Symptoms: Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal aching.
- Prognosis: Dehydration is the biggest concern with rotavirus; many patients are required to obtain IV treatment at a hospital. Infants, young children, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions are considered to run the greatest risk for rotavirus.
This vaccine helps prevent shingles, a skin condition caused by the herpes zoster virus that has been linked to exposure to varicella (chickenpox).
- Who should get the vaccine? The vaccine is recommended for anyone over the age of 60, particularly those who have been exposed to chickenpox.
- Transmission: Shingles cannot be transmitted from person-to-person, but herpes zoster can, and is usually spread through the fluid of herpes zoster blisters.
- Symptoms: In addition to painful blisters and rash, symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and nausea.
- Prognosis: The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a persistent pain where shingles blisters once occurred. Shingles may also lead to vision problems, pneumonia, brain inflammation, and death.
This is the vaccine used to treat the condition varicella (also known as chickenpox).
- Who should get the vaccine? A two-dose vaccine is available for children between the ages of 12 months and six years ― although the vaccine is not 100% effective, and individuals who have been immunized commonly contract the disease.
- Transmission: The virus is spread person-to-person by mucus, saliva, or fluid from chickenpox blisters.
- Symptoms: In addition to a severe rash of red blisters, other symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and headache.
- Prognosis: Serious complications of chickenpox can include pneumonia, infections of the joints and bones, inflammation of the brain, and toxic shock syndrome. Adults may also acquire shingles later in life due to exposure to chickenpox.