Five reasons to vaccinate your baby

4/11/2016 by Robert M. Jacobson, MD

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April 16 marks the start of National Infant Immunization Week. This week was set aside to raise awareness about the benefits of vaccinating your baby, your loved ones and yourself. Here are five reasons why routine vaccination is good for everyone. 

Vaccines save lives. 

The first National Infant Immunization Week was held in 1994. Since then, vaccines have saved nearly 1 million lives. By 2013, routine vaccines in the U.S. prevented 732,000 deaths, 322 million illnesses and 21 million hospital stays. 

Vaccination is very safe. 

Vaccine safety testing begins with testing a hundred to a thousand times more people than drug safety studies. Why? We demand a higher level of safety for vaccines because we're usually giving them to people who are healthy. After the vaccine is licensed, testing and monitoring continues with the millions of doses given. 

Vaccines protect those you care about. 

When you vaccinate yourself and your loved ones, you protect others you care about, too. Vaccinating yourself during pregnancy against whooping cough protects your baby. Vaccinating you and your children against the flu protects older members of your extended family, including grandparents who no longer respond well to the influenza vaccine. 

Vaccines can save you time and money. 

Many of our vaccines prevent common diseases, including influenza, chickenpox and shingles that can keep you home from work and school. Scheduling a nurse visit to bring your vaccines up to date is a lot easier than managing an unscheduled, unexpected illness. 

Vaccines protect future generations. 

Thanks to rubella shots, children no longer are born with congenital rubella syndrome that left them mentally impaired, deaf or blind. New vaccines have greatly reduced the rates of brain injury that left generations of children handicapped for life. Every infant in the U.S. used to get the smallpox vaccine. Thanks to its success, smallpox is gone. We are on the verge of doing the same for polio. Next on the list is measles!

Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a primary care pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and the medical director of the ECH and Southeast Minnesota Region Immunization Program.