Vaccines are vital for keeping you and your community safe. That's why they start at birth and continue into your golden years. If you need a refresher on what you've already had and what's coming up, look in your MyUnityPoint patient portal. You can also ask your doctor to see if you're up to date during your next annual physical.

Keep reading to learn who approves vaccines, why it's important to stay on a vaccine schedule and which vaccines medical experts recommend for adults and children.

Why are Vaccines Important? 

If most of our population is vaccinated, a contagious person in the community won't cause widespread disease. However, if there's a low vaccination rate, the disease spreads more easily among the unvaccinated, those too young to be vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems. 

No vaccine is 100% effective, but some are close. While some may not totally prevent a disease, they help keep you from becoming super sick. Less severe illness also means less preventable deaths. 

Disease Pre-Vaccine Era Estimated Mortality Recent Reports of U.S. Estimated Cases % Decrease
Hepatitis A 117,333 24,900 79%
Hepatitis B 66,232 21,600 67%
Measles 530,217 1,287 >99%
Mumps 162,344 3,509 98%
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) 200,752 15,662 92%
Polio 16,316 0 100%
Smallpox 29,005 0 100%
Varicella (Chicken Pox)  4,085,120 102,128 >98%

Who Approves Vaccines and Monitors Safety? 

To make sure a vaccine is safe and effective, it goes through a series of tests monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The tests are called clinical trials and must involve more than 10,000 people. Some people receive the new vaccine and others get a placebo, or an inactive treatment. Then, the researchers track what happens. 

Once a vaccine is licensed and recommended, it can be safely given to people. But the monitoring doesn't stop there — it actually becomes more robust. Once it's given to a larger population outside of the clinical trials, a rare side effect may pop up. This is a normal part of scientific discovery and expected with vaccine development. If new risks or side effects are discovered over time, recommendations could change. 

If you're worried about the long-term effects of a vaccine — don't be. Vaccines aren't like medications you take every day for a long time. Those types of treatments are where long-term effects are more concerning. Vaccines typically only involve less than a few doses. Your body then uses what's in the vaccine to strengthen your natural immune response and gets rid of the rest.

Why is it Important to Stay on a Vaccine Schedule? 

The vaccine schedule your doctor recommends is developed by leading healthcare organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The schedule was carefully designed by hundreds of the country's top doctors and healthcare professional to provide protection at the right time. 

Vaccine schedules are based on how your body responds to vaccines at various ages and how likely you are to be exposed to a particular disease. Keeping babies on schedule is particularly important since they're most at risk of getting seriously sick from these preventable diseases. 

While staying on schedule with young babies is important, adults need to keep up with their vaccines, too. In some cases, protection from vaccines wears off over time. Adult vaccines also help prevent illnesses that could result in missing work, medical bills and not being able to care for family. 

Remember, you typically aren't fully protected until you've received all the recommended doses of a vaccine.

Who Sets the Vaccine Schedule?

Our clinics use the recommended schedule set forth by the CDC, as do all reputable U.S. healthcare organizations. Each time a vaccine is added to the schedule, a group of medical and public health experts called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meets at least three times a year to discuss recommendations, such as:

  • How safe and effective the vaccine is at certain ages
  • The severity of the disease the vaccine prevents
  • The number of people who get the disease if there isn't a vaccine
  • How well the vaccine helps the body produce immunity to the disease

What Vaccines are Recommended for Children and Adults? 

Following the appropriate vaccine schedule gives you and your family the best protection from potentially serious disease. The following vaccines are recommended within the first 18 months of a child's life:

  Birth 2 Months 4 Months 6 Months   12 Months  15 Months 18 Months 
Hepatitis B (Hep B)            
 Rotavirus (RV5)        
Diphtheria, Tetanus, & acellular Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and Hep B (DTaP-IPV-Hib-HepB)        
 Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)      
 COVID-19       ✓ *      
 Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)            
 Hepatitis A (HepA)          
 Influenza (Flu)       ✓ ** ✓ **
 Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)            
 Varicella (VAR)            
 Diphtheria, Tetanus, & acellular Pertussis (DTaP)            

* First of two or three dose series

**Annual vaccination beginning after 6 months of age. First time recipients and some groups may be eligible for two doses instead of one.

In addition, older children, adults, pregnant individuals and international travelers are also advised to receive specific vaccines.

How Do I Get the Vaccines I Need? 

If you've missed vaccines over the years, don't sweat it — we're here to help you. Consider making sure you're up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines as an easy first step. 

Since the flu shot is seasonal, it's a great idea to make plans to get that in September or October. You can still get the flu shot beyond October, but late summer or early fall is best due to how that virus spreads. 

If you've got those two checked off the list, talk to your primary care doctor to identify other vaccines you might need. If you don't have a primary care doctor, you can easily find one near you. 

To see your past vaccine history, check out what's in your MyUnityPoint account. You can also contact your local or state public health department to search through records. 

Remember — it's never too late to catch up on vaccines.