A mock catch-up schedule for an unvaccinated 5 year old

Let’s say you chose not to get your child vaccinated while s/he was an infant, and now you’re considering enrolling them in a public school where certain vaccines are required. You may be terrified at the thought of your child receiving all of those vaccines at once, but rest assured, the catch up schedule for a 5 year old is nothing to fret over. The following work up is based on the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Immunization Schedule and it will vary depending on your location and your pediatrician’s office. However, since this schedule makes the process more clear than even the CDC’s published catch up schedule, I’m going to use this one as an example.

This assumes the use of MMRV and Pediarix, two combination vaccines that can be used for children up to 7 years old and which most offices will probably stock because they significantly reduce the number of injections needed (reducing the risk of administration error, as well). I will include some notes at the end.

So this is how it goes:

First visit: 2 shots (+2 optional)
DtaP-IPV-HepB, MMR-Var, (+HAV, flu)
1 month later
2nd visit: 2 shots (+1 optional)
DTaP-IPV-HepB, MMR-Var (+flu)
1 month later
3rd visit: 1 shot
DTaP
6mos later
3rd visit: 1 shot (1 optional)
DTaP-IPV-HepB, (HAV)
That’s it. 4 visits, 9 months, 6-10 shots (6 required for school). Now your child meets all of the requirements for kindergarten and is protected from up to 9 illnesses that could lead to serious complications, or spread to others for whom these illnesses might be deadly.

There are some factors that can increase the number of shots. For example, if you have already started some vaccination series with an incompatible vaccine, then it may not be possible to finish the series with Pediarix. There is a preference among some practitioners or parents, as recommended by the CDC, to separate the first MMRV  into the individual vaccines, MMR and Varicella, for the first dose in children under 5. There are also additional vaccines recommended for children under 5 who are catching up, in order to protect them from serious diseases like meningitis.

The reason I wanted to write this is because I often see parents who have decided to get a child caught up, fretting over the idea that the child will have to receive “all n doses at once!” That just doesn’t happen. There is a required time period to space each dose in a series of vaccinations.

Many of the fear mongering websites that hype up the number of doses that children receive are obsessively separating individual vaccine components, like the D, T and P in DTaP and considering those “3 doses”, or “3 vaccines”, instead of one. That makes catching up look like a fearsome and insurmountable chore full of risk and horror (especially if you see these described in a meme implying a serious problem, or worse, one with a skull and crossbones accompanying the outrageous number of doses.)

With all that said, younger children do receive more vaccines than older children because they are much more vulnerable to illnesses like Hib meningitis, and epiglottitis, and Pneumococcal meningitis, sepsis and pneumonia. These serious diseases warrant vaccination for youngsters. So if you have a child under 5, don’t shy away from catching them up just because the vaccine schedule appears more manageable for a 5 year old. Your younger child should be vaccinated according to the recommendations for his or her age.

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