Are your infant's vaccines up to date?
4/21/2021 by Robert Jacobson, M.D.; Julie Gebel, R.N.; Debra Goodew, R.N.
April 24 through May 1 is National Infant Immunization Week — a time to celebrate the vital role vaccines play for infants in preventing all sorts of diseases that used to be common in the U.S.
But this year's celebration comes with a caution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to miss routine infant checkups. As a result, many infants have missed vital vaccines.
Data show that vaccine orders are down by 11 million doses since the start of the pandemic. Measles-containing vaccine doses are down 20%. The same problem with infant vaccines is taking place across the planet, and measles outbreaks are already being seen as a result in other parts of the world.
Infants are at new increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. If they are, so are their households. If their households are at risk, so are their communities. And it's not just measles. It's whooping cough, chickenpox, meningitis, sepsis and liver disease. Infant vaccines prevent 16 types of infections.
COVID-19 vaccines bring hope that lockdowns and social distancing will come to an end. As opportunities for in-person learning and play grow, getting infants their vaccines is more important than ever. This will ensure other disease outbreaks don't occur at the same time as COVID-19. Vaccinating now will help prevent those outbreaks.
Vaccines save millions of lives around the world every year. One of the most successful public health efforts is getting infants vaccinated. This means getting vaccines when due. It also means getting caught up when behind.
The same applies to older children, teens and adults. For school-age children and teens, the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon. Getting them up to date now will protect them if there are outbreaks. For those old enough to get vaccinated for COVID-19 soon, experts call for two weeks between a COVID-19 vaccine dose and doses of other vaccines. Getting caught up now prevents the confusion.
So celebrate National Infant Immunization Week and remember the good they do. But keep in mind they only do good when infants get them. Get infants and everyone else caught up now.
Robert Jacobson, M.D., is a physician in Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, and the medical director of the Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota Immunization Program.
Julie Gebel, R.N., and Debra Goodew, R.N., are program coordinators for the Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota Immunization Program.