Caring for Kids…at Billings Clinic

Protecting Baby with First Vaccines

Despite all of the discussion about the anti-vaccine movement, the majority of children are vaccinated with little to no complications.  But as parents we don’t always know exactly what diseases those shots are protecting our children from, we just know we want the shots.  So here is a brief description of each disease children are vaccinated for from birth to 6 months of age.  Future posts will include vaccines for children over 12 months and teenagers.

Diptheria (D in DtaP)

Diptheria is a bacterial infection that produces a toxin that causes respiratory symptoms. Within 2-3 days a thick coating “pseudomembrane” is produced in the airway.  This membrane can cover the nose and throat which can be deadly.  According to the CDC, the U.S. recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths.  And before there was treatment for diphtheria, up to half of the people who got the disease died from it.  In the last 10 years less than 5 cases have been reported in the US.

Tetanus (T in DTaP)

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious bacterial disease that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw making it difficult to open a person’s mouth or to swallow. Tetanus leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases.  Unlike other vaccine preventable diseases this one is not spread person to person.  It is mostly found in the soil and infects people through dirty wounds.  So even if you keep unvaccinated children isolated from other people they can still become infected with this disease.

Pertussis (P in DTaP)

Whooping cough or pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory tract infection.  It begins with common cold symptoms but progresses to a persistent cough.  Another name for pertussis is “the 100 day cough” because that is how long you can cough with this illness!  It can be particularly dangerous for young infants, half of children less than 1 who contract pertussis are hospitalized and some die despite adequate medical treatment.  Adults with waning immunity (meaning it has been too long since their last vaccination) are the ones spreading pertussis to children.  For this reason the CDC recommends adults have at least one pertussis vaccine and pregnant women should have it with each pregnancy.  So please, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters get vaccinated.

*What’s with the small “a” in DtaP?  The vaccine most of us were vaccinated with as children was the DTP.  There were a lot of side effects with this vaccine that used whole cells of pertussis to create the vaccine.  The DTaP is an acellular pertussis vaccine meaning no whole cells (hence the little a). This vaccine is a much more purified product causing many fewer side effects.  We have been using the DTaP since 1996.

IPV – Polio

Polio is a virus that can cause severe illness including paralysis and even death.  It was quite common and sickened thousands of people each year until the vaccine was introduced in 1955.  Originally the vaccine was given orally but transitioned to the intramuscular (shot) because of fewer side effects.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver and can cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure and death.  This virus is usually spread through contacted with an infected person’s body fluids, for example blood.  A mother unaware she has been infected can pass hepatitis B to her newborn baby during birth thus this vaccine is often given to newborn babies at birth to decrease this risk. 


This vaccine protects against 13 strains of the pneumococcus bacteria.  The bacteria cause serious illness including pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, meningitis (infection of the area around the brain and spinal column) and blood infections (bacteremia).  As with most vaccine preventable diseases pneumococcus is particularly dangerous for young children. 

Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

This vaccine protects against the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, but only the most invasive strain, type B also known as Hib.  This bacteria, like pneumococcus, can cause pneumonia and meningitis.  It also causes a particularly scary and rapidly progressing throat infection called epiglottitis.


This is an oral vaccine that protects against Rotavirus.  This virus causes acute gastroenteritis (severe vomiting and diarrhea) that leads to hospitalization for dehydration in some children.  Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe acute gastroenteritis among children worldwide.

*Want to know more?  The is a great resource along with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website.  This website has a vaccine information section edited by Dr. Paul Offit a leading vaccine expert. 

Kathryn Lysinger, MD

I am a part-time pediatrician and full-time mom of 5 year old Jacob and 3 year old Lauren. After several years away in the “big city” my husband Jeri and I are excited to be back home in Montana. When not working I love to travel, cook and can’t wait to get the entire family back on the slopes in my hometown Red Lodge, MT.

1 comment on “Protecting Baby with First Vaccines
  1. CHall says:

    Excellent info Dr. Lysinger! Thank you for your time and sharing your wealth of knowledge! You are greatly appreciated for all you do for this community!

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