Because no one knows how effectively the new varicella vaccine will provide long-term immunity, it may be better in the long run to contract chicken pox as a child and develop natural immunity to it than to get immunized against it. While relatively free of complications when contracted in childhood, chicken pox can be much more damaging to adults. So discuss this with your pediatrician before agreeing to give your child this vaccine.
The timing of your child's well-baby visits is determined largely by the immunization schedule, as indicated by the following list. Most pediatricians today require four visits between the first and second birthdays:
- 12 months At your baby's first annual check-up, she may receive her MMR—a combined vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles)—and an immunization against varicella (chicken pox).
- 15 months If she did not receive an MMR at 12 months, your child will get this shot now. She may also be given her fourth HiB immunization—a vaccine against Hemophilus Influenza B (a bacterial infection that can cause meningitis and other illnesses) and her fourth DPT or DTaP immunization—a combined vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus (lockjaw).
- 18 months If your child was not given HiB and DPT or DTaP immunizations at 15 months, she will receive them now. She also may be given her third oral polio vaccine or an injection against polio, though many doctors now give this third dose as early as six months.
- Two years Finally, around your child's second birthday, you can bring her to a well-baby visit that doesn't involve getting a shot (although she may need a finger-prick blood test for lead). In fact, your toddler can now look forward to no more routine immunizations until her fourth, fifth, or sixth birthday.
Keep in mind that the vaccination schedule presented here may change by the time you read this. Recommendations regarding the polio, pertussis, and varicella vaccines, in particular, may change in the coming years as new vaccines or vaccine combinations are introduced and new research studies completed.