Childhood Vaccines Can Wear Off, So Here's How You Can Keep Your Kid Protected

As a mom I've learned that discussing vaccines can be difficult, to say the least. As with any medical decision, though, it's important to speak to your doctor and do your own research to make sure you're informed (in other words, don't always believe what you read in some online mom group). For example, if you're wondering if childhood vaccines can wear off, the answer is yes: some of them actually do, and us parents should definitely know which ones need a boost.

Beginning at birth and for the first two years of your child's life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives the following list of recommended vaccines:

  • Hepatitis B
  • rotavirus
  • polio
  • diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (DTaP)
  • measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • varicella
  • Hepatitis A
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Pneumococcal conjugate

Some of these shots are designed to protect your baby for life. Both the measles vaccines and the Hepatitis B shots do not wear off, according to Kids Health, so they will not need to be given again. The polio vaccine should also last a lifetime too, according to CDC, and will only need to be given again in very rare circumstances.

Scientific American noted that protection for pertussis (the P in the DTaP vaccine) does wear off over time, however, so it should be refreshed. The CDC recommends kids get another shot as they enter their teen years. For kids older than 7, that's the TDaP vaccine, which protects against the same diseases as the DTaP (confusing, I know). The CDC also recommends women get a TDaP vaccine for each pregnancy, because pertussis — AKA whooping cough — can be incredibly dangerous for newborns. Mom's TDaP shot can pass protective antibodies onto to the baby.

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The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases also recommends that adults over 65 get another pneumococcal vaccine, as well the Hepatitis B vaccine for adults with diabetes.

If you can't find the records from your child's previous vaccines, or you're not sure which ones you received as a child, you may need to repeat them, according to the CDC. If you don't want extra shots, however, you may also be able to ask your doctor to give you a blood test which can show which diseases you're immune to due to previous vaccines.

Most states require kids to be up to date on vaccines by the time they start school, but CBS News noted that the vaccine requirements from state to state can vary. Exemptions can be granted in many states, as well. You can check your state's vaccine requirements on the Immunization Action Coalition website.

If you've got a new baby and you're feeling uncertain about vaccines, speak to your pediatrician. They'll be able to tell which ones will be given, when, and most importantly, why.