Infant Immunization Week celebrates protecting your baby's health

4/19/2018 by Dr. Robert M. Jacobson and Jennifer Brickley, RN

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April 21 through 28 is National Infant Immunization Week. It's a time to honor the parents, nurses, clinicians and public health officials who have helped the U.S. achieve its high rates of infant immunization. As a result, we are experiencing very low rates of vaccine-preventable disease in infants. 

Most parents work very hard to get their infants all the vaccines they need, with support from nurses, clinicians and public health officials. Parents choosing to vaccinate on time not only protect their own infants but also other infants, children and adults in the community. These include those for whom the vaccines don't work and those who mistakenly choose to delay or not vaccinate. 

Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist. Outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles still happen, particularly in communities where more people choose to delay or avoid vaccination. Most of the 14 diseases for which we vaccinate our infants are just a plane-ride away. Others are as close as the ground we walk upon. 

If we could, we would give all 14 vaccines at birth to provide immediate protection. But vaccines don't work that way. The newborn baby's immune system would just ignore them if given too early. Some vaccines need to be repeated several times to achieve any immunity. Measles vaccine can't even be given until the infant is 12 months old. In Minnesota, 2017 was a terrible year for measles outbreaks, which were brought on by the failure to vaccinate. All of us can help protect infants by making sure we are up-to-date on our own vaccines. 

Minnesota will still have flu outbreaks during the last week of April and into May. The flu vaccine isn't effective in babies until they're six months old. Even then, they still need 2 doses at least a month apart. Everyone in a baby's home and in their life should be getting their flu vaccine to protect the baby. 

As for whooping cough, mothers-to-be should make sure they get a special dose of Tdap vaccine. This should be given between 27 and 36 weeks gestation, but as close to 27 weeks as possible. Newborns will need 3 doses of DTaP to be protected. That means for the first seven months of life, babies count on their mothers to have done the right thing during pregnancy. 

Everyone in our community is counting on us to do the right thing. That means being up-to-date with our own immunizations and making sure infants get theirs!

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

Jennifer L. Brickley is a registered nurse in Employee and Community Health (ECH) and is the program coordinator of the ECH Immunization Program.