High immunization rates prevent infectious diseases from spreading within our communities, making everyone healthier.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released the annual immunization schedule for children and adolescents, outlining all the vaccines that are recommended to promote health. The Academy's recommendations are also in in the policy statement, "Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule: United States, 2023," in the March 2023 issue of Pediatrics. The policy statement outlines recommendations for the use of vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A roadmap to ready immune systems
"Vaccines are essential for the health of our whole society, including children and adolescents," said Sean O'Leary, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. "We all have a responsibility to ensure everyone can access vaccinations, both for their individual health as well as to prevent the spread of illnesses. These schedules provide a roadmap parents and pediatricians can follow to help children get the vaccines they need so their immune systems will be ready to recognize and resist diseases."
The schedule includes a table for recommended immunizations from birth to 18. The vaccine schedule also provides recommendations for children and teens ages 4 months to 18 years who start late or who are more than one month behind the recommended age for vaccine administration. Changes this year include ongoing efforts to improve the useability of the immunization schedule and integrating COVID-19 vaccines, which were formerly contained in the footnotes.
Peak effectiveness & safety
Vaccines on the immunization schedule are specially formulated to be given at certain points in children's development for their peak effectiveness and safety. Infants and children may also receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other regularly scheduled immunizations.
This year's schedule follows news released on Jan. 13, 2023, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported a decline in kindergarten vaccination rates during the 2021-22 school year, finding about 93% of kindergartners were fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate fell by one percentage point from the year before and two points from the 2019-'20 school year, according to a study published in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
This dip in vaccination coverage has been attributed to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and health care professionals urge families to make sure their children are up to date with their vaccines.
Groups that approved the 2023 immunization schedule for children and adolescents include the CDC, AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American Academy of Physician Assistants, and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
"Families may have questions, and pediatricians are happy to answer them," Dr. O'Leary said. "Each of us plays a role in keeping one another healthy."