Provide a Healthy Start: Vaccinate from Birth to Age 2

DSC03955-CAugust is National Immunization Awareness Month, coordinated by the National Public Health Information Coalition. This campaign provides an important opportunity to highlight the value of immunizations across your lifespan — for yourself, your loved ones, and the general public.

From August 3 to August 9, the focus is on “A Healthy Start” from birth to age 2.

Vaccinations give parents proven power to protect their kids from fourteen diseases before they turn 2 years old. Diseases like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) can be life-threatening for very little children, and vaccinations protect against these deadly diseases.

Even during a woman’s pregnancy, you can help your new baby make a safe transition into this world by getting a flu shot and the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough.

It’s best to vaccinate your children according to the recommended schedule. Children who don’t receive the recommended vaccines are not only at risk of getting the disease or illness, but also of getting a very severe case of the disease or illness. You cannot predict if an unvaccinated child will get a vaccine-preventable disease nor can you know how severe the illness may become. But vaccines aren’t just for your own child’s protection — they are a shared responsibility for everyone. Families, health care professionals, and public health officials must work together to protect the whole community by getting vaccinated on schedule and thus preventing the spread of these diseases.

It’s easy to think of polio, whooping cough, or measles as diseases that don’t affect people in the US or as diseases that only affected children in the past. Many of us aren’t aware of the devastating effects of these diseases on young children because the incidence rates are relatively low, but the truth is, these afflictions still exist.

The good news is that most parents are vaccinating their children. A CDC poll in April of 2012 shows that 88 percent of parents reported that they are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so. Despite this, recent outbreaks of whooping cough, measles, mumps, and other vaccine-preventable disease have occurred in the US, including in Sonoma, over the past few years.

What is Whooping Cough and How Can We Prevent It?

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a bacterium, and it has become a growing health concern in the past few years, partly due to the increasing number of parents not vaccinating their children. This infection can be serious for everyone, but it is life-threatening in newborns and very young children.

Because there are no whooping cough vaccines recommended for newborns at birth, other strategies are used to provide the best protection possible. For example, vaccinations for pregnant women in the third trimester are given to provide newborns with short-term immunity, and family members and caregivers get vaccinated before they meet the baby.

Once babies reach two months, they can be vaccinated and can begin building up their own immunity. The vaccine for whooping cough, DTaP, comes in three stages and should be given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age to increase levels of protection. Later on, boosters are needed somewhere between 15 and 18 months and again between 4 and 6 years of age to maintain protection against pertussis.

Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need — when they need them. Check out the CDC’s 2014 recommended immunizations for children from birth to 6 years old here, and ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

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