Childhood & young adult vaccinations and when to have them

As a parent, you’ll do anything to protect your children – from infancy to adulthood – which means being aware of the various vaccinations available and the age at which they need to be received. 

You know the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’? That’s certainly the case when it comes to ensuring your child has received immunizations that can prevent them from catching life-threatening diseases such as meningitis, diphtheria and, the current big threat, Covid-19.

What vaccinations are available?

From birth to the age of 16, there are a number of vaccinations available that can give children a healthy start in life. However, some vaccines have attracted media attention in recent years for a variety of reasons, and if you are at all unsure about anything you have heard or read in relation to immunizations, it’s always worth seeking the advice of a medical professional.

Some vaccinations are administered over several doses (like meningitis B, which the World Health Organisation says all babies should be protected against) while it’s also possible to deliver multiple vaccinations at once. 

What does vaccination involve? 

A vaccine trains the body to create antibodies and strengthens the immune system. Most are given by injection (usually in the top of a baby’s thigh or a child’s upper arm) but some are given by mouth or sprayed into the nose. To help you stay on top of childhood vaccinations, we’ve compiled this simple table:

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At Birth

  • BCG: At birth or as early as possible (till one year of age)

  • Hepatitis B Birth Dose: At birth or as early as possible (within 24 hours)

  • OPV-0 (Oral polio vaccine): At birth or as early as possible (within 15 days)

6-14 weeks

  • OPV 1, 2 & 3: At 6 weeks, 10 weeks & 14 weeks (can be given till age 5)

  • Pentavalent 1, 2 & 3: At 6 weeks, 10 weeks & 14 weeks (can be given till age 1) 

  • Rotavirus: At 6 weeks, 10 weeks & 14 weeks (can be given till age 1)

  • IPV (Inactivated Polio Vaccine): Two fractional doses at age 6 weeks and age 14 weeks 

9-12 months

  • Measles /MR 1st Dose: After 9 completed months-12 months (can be given till age 5)

  • JE – 1: After 9 completed months-12 months 

  • Vitamin A (1st dose): After 9 completed months with measles-rubella vaccine

16-24 months 

  • DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) booster-1: 16-24 months

  • Measles/ MR 2nd dose: 16-24 months 

  • OPV Booster: 16-24 months 

  • JE-2: 16-24 months 

  • Vitamin A (2nd to 9th dose): 16-18 months. Then one dose every 6 months up to the age of 5 years

5-16 years 

  • DPT Booster-2: 5-6 years 

  • TT (tetanus toxoid): 10 years & 16 years 

18+ years

  • Covid Vaccine dose 1: 18 years and over 

  • Covid Vaccine dose 2: 18 years and over (waiting period depends on the type of vaccine)

The vaccination schedule above is meant to be a guide on the usual vaccines given to children in India. Some vaccines may differ according to state. Always consult your pediatrician or a medical professional who can guide you clearly on your child’s immunization requirements.   

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What about the side effects of vaccinations?

Minor side effects following a vaccine might include mild fever and soreness where the injection was administered, but this will usually wear off after a few days. If you are worried your child has had a severe or allergic reaction to a vaccination, it’s important to immediately seek medical attention.  

Getting the Covid vaccine

In India, anyone who is 18 years old or older can get the vaccine against Covid-19. As of now, three vaccines are available in the country – Covishield (AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India), Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited) and Russia’s Sputnik – V (developed by The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology). Each vaccine has two doses. For Covishield, the second dose needs to be taken 12-16 weeks after the initial shot. For Covaxin, the second dose of Covaxin should be taken 4 to 6 weeks after the first dose. The gap between the first and second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine must be a minimum of 21 days.

Getting the covid vaccine does not make you fully immune to the risk of contracting any of the covid variants. However, it can decrease the intensity of the illness and chances of hospitalization and death, should you be unfortunate enough to contract it. Whether you are fully vaccinated or have taken one dose, make sure you still follow social distancing rules and wear a mask when necessary. Once vaccinated, even though you may not be affected seriously if you contract the disease, you still have the ability to pass it on to others who are vulnerable and not vaccinated.