Protect your precious little ones

4/29/2019 by Dr. Robert Jacobson and Julie Gebel, RN

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April 27 through May 4 is National Infant Immunization Week — the ideal time to celebrate the vital role vaccines play. Vaccines protect not only children, but also their families and communities. 

Giving infants the recommended vaccines due in the first two years is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases like measles, whooping cough and Hib (a common cause of meningitis). 

Many vaccine-preventable diseases used to be common in the United States, but are rarely seen now. That's because of vaccines. 

Just because there are vaccines to prevent them, doesn't mean the diseases don't exist. They do. And outbreaks occur in the United States and around the world. Vaccines received on time stop their spread and prevent future outbreaks. 

Measles is still a problem. In the year 2000, the U.S. announced the elimination of measles from the country. Every case we have had since has been brought in from another country. This year, we've already had more cases than in all of last year. Ten states now have outbreaks, and up to one-third of people infected end up in the hospital. Measles is very hard on infants. 

Almost all parents vaccinate their infants, but there's still work to be done. We're seeing an increase in the number of children under age two who have not gotten their vaccines on time. Some parents fear that they can't afford them. Mayo Clinic has joined the Vaccines for Children program, which is a federally-funded program. It provides recommended vaccines at no cost to eligible children who are 18 years old or younger. Families needing help paying for childhood vaccines can get help through this program. 

So let's celebrate this 25th Anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week by making sure all our precious little ones are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through on-time vaccines. Out children are counting on us to vaccinate and protect. 

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. 

Julie Gebel is a registered nurse in ECH and is the program coordinator of the ECH Immunization Program.