Are your infant's vaccines up to date?
4/20/2023 by Robert Jacobson, M.D.; Julie Gebel, R.N.; Debra Goodew, R.N.
April 24–30 is National Infant Immunization Week — a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year, the primary focus is to ensure families stay on track for their children's well-child visits and routinely recommended vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2021 in the U.S. will prevent 472 million illnesses; help avoid 1,052,000 deaths; and save nearly $2.2 trillion in total societal costs — that includes $479 billion in direct costs.
Infants are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. When infants are at risk, so are their households. If their households are at risk, so are their communities. Giving babies the recommended vaccinations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, including whooping cough, or pertussis; measles; chickenpox; meningitis; sepsis; liver disease; and several others.
The CDC's recommended schedule (birth through 6 years old) is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. It's also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. As new information and science become available, vaccine recommendations are monitored, updated and improved.
The vaccines recommended in the CDC schedule are carefully timed to provide protection to children when they are most vulnerable to diseases, and when the vaccines will produce the strongest response from the child's immune system. It's therefore very important to follow the schedule as closely as possible.
Trust in vaccines is built through millions of conversations between parents, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and community members. Vaccination is a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community.
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 they are due. It also means getting caught up when behind.
The same applies to older children, teens and adults. For school-age children and teens, getting their vaccines when due or getting them caught up on overdue vaccines now will protect them if there are outbreaks.
So, let's celebrate National Infant Immunization Week and remember the good that vaccines do. But keep in mind, they only do good when people get them.
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 registered nurses and program coordinators for the Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota Immunization Program.