To highlight the importance of immunizations across the lifespan, NFID is launching an inaugural National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) blog relay, featuring a guest post each week from an immunization champion and/or organization. Each week of #NIAM16 focuses on a different stage of the lifespan.
Special thanks to Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, also known as Seattle Mama Doc, for this guest blog post about the importance of vaccinating according to the recommended immunization schedule, during the third week of NIAM16 which is focused on babies and young children.
Every parent learns quickly that there isn’t a long list of things we can control in parenthood, but there are a few things we can do to help ensure our children stay healthy and safe. This starts well before we even meet our babies as we nurture a healthy pregnancy, ready our homes and cars appropriately, and tidy our lives to make space for the rigor of raising a baby. I feel there is a mama and papa bear instinct in all parents and protecting children from illnesses is a top to-do on most parent’s lists but sometimes we forget to include vaccines since we are fortunate to be living in a time where infectious diseases are less common, a result of vaccination.
Reality is, science shows us that even before our babies are born, we can protect them with immunizations. We know that even in utero, vaccines given to moms protect against influenza (flu) and pertussis (whooping cough) help support our baby’s health by enhancing the immune protection for newborns. After a mom gets vaccinated, she passes antibodies to her newborn baby via her placenta. This has been found to help protect infants from more serious infections and significantly decrease bad outcomes for babies. After birth, we should get our infants immunized on time (as early as the day of birth for hepatitis B vaccine) and continue to vaccinate according to the recommended immunization schedule. By immunizing according to the recommended schedule, you reduce the window of time that your child could get sick from things like pneumonia, meningitis, severe diarrhea, or even ear infections.
Waiting or delaying vaccines just doesn’t make sense. There is no reduced risk; leaving them unvaccinated just leaves your baby or child vulnerable to infections.
Don’t Wait When Pregnant: Pregnant moms need a flu shot at any stage of pregnancy and a whooping cough shot during the 3rd trimester. These immunizations protect mom while pregnant and at risk for serious infection but they also build up immunity that she passes to her baby via the placenta. A win-win!
Flu Shots: All children age 6 months and older
should receive a flu vaccine every year. This is an essential vaccine for a healthy childhood because we know that young and school-aged kids are more likely to get the flu because of the way they interact with each other in close quarters. Young children also tend to have more serious infections. Getting immunized every year protects children and their families as the virus shifts and changes; an annual flu vaccine boosts our immunity for the types of flu that we are most likely to come into contact with that year.
Lots of Vaccines = Lots of Protection: By the time they turn 3, children who are up-to-date on immunizations have the immense benefit of being protected against 14 different diseases. Science has not only refined vaccines since they were first developed, we’ve developed smarter vaccination schedules as well. We even have vaccines (hepatitis B and HPV) that protect against certain types of cancers!
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report stated that vaccination prevented about 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 premature deaths. My goal as a mother, a pediatrician, and a vaccine advocate is to support, protect, and cure children whenever we can. Scientifically supported vaccines give us all a privileged better “shot.”
Be sure to check NFID News each week during #NIAM16 to view guest blog posts, including next week’s guest post from NFID Board Member, Lisa S. Ipp, MD.
To join the conversation, follow NFID (@nfidvaccines) and Wendy Sue Swanson (@SeattleMamaDoc) on Twitter using the hashtag #NIAM16, like NFID on Facebook, join the NFID Linkedin Group, and subscribe to NFID Updates.