An immunization schedule communicates the types of vaccines that should be obtained by people at certain ages. It normally spans the childhood years. These guidelines are commonly issued by governmental health authorities in hopes of helping reduce the numbers of children who become inflicted with certain types of diseases. Schedules can vary from one place to another and may change for a specific location as health risks change.
An immunization schedule is commonly referred to as a vaccination schedule. This is because its purpose is to inform people which vaccines need to be obtained at each age during a child's life, generally beginning at birth. Vaccines are preventive medications that work by introducing part of a potentially harmful virus or bacteria into a person's system so she does not later become infected with an active strain. It has been found that getting vaccinations has led to dramatic decreases in the occurrence of certain illnesses.
Since vaccines can be such effective methods of prevention, governmental health authorities often find it beneficial to produce an immunization schedule that addresses the needs in their area. Every immunization schedule is not the same. These can vary from one region or country to another because the same types of risks and protections may not be needed everywhere.
A vaccination schedule for a certain location may also need to be altered from time to time due to a change in health risks. Some diseases may be eradicated, eliminating the need for vaccines that prevent them. Meanwhile, new diseases may appear and new vaccinations may need to be added to the schedule. In many cases, parents are given an immunization schedule near the time of a child's birth. Anyone who has a child but does not have these guidelines may be able to obtain them from a doctor, public health clinic, or on the Internet.
Immunization schedules may be available in several forms, such as a booklet or a poster. When in booklet form, there is often a space provided so the dates that vaccines are obtained can be recorded. In whichever form it is made available, they are generally organized so it is easy to determine which vaccines need to be given at each age. For example, in the United States (US), it is common to find these guidelines in the form of charts. On such a chart, listed in the column below the each age group, a person is likely to find the vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).