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August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). Immunizations represent one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the 20th century. The purpose of NIAM is to celebrate the benefits of vaccination and to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them from 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday. “The recommended immunization schedule is designed to offer protection early in life,” said Dr. Candice Robinson, a pediatrician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “when babies are vulnerable and before it’s likely they will be exposed to diseases.”

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.

Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years of life may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended.

Dr. Robinson cautions against parents delaying vaccination. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.”

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough. Most young parents in the United States have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or whooping cough can have on a family or community. But the truth is they still exist.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states. This was the largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.  Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age 2.

As a reminder, measles is a serious disease that is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is so contagious that if one person has it, 9 out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. You can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. Measles can cause serious health complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis, and death. Some people are at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles, including children younger than 5 years of age, adults older than 20 years of age, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

More parents are becoming vocal advocates for immunizations, such as the group Voices for Vaccines. Voices for Vaccines is a parent-driven organization supported by scientists, doctors, and public health officials that provides parents with clear, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease, as well as an opportunity to join the national discussion about the importance of on-time vaccination.

If you have questions about infant immunizations, please check out MDPH’s Vaccine Information for Parents/Caregivers website. It addresses many of the common questions, such as vaccine safety, combination vaccines, immunity, and more. The CDC also offers a comprehensive guide for parents on all the recommended vaccines. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center also has very popular, informative resources on vaccines. You can also talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about any questions you may have. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

So remember, vaccinating your child on the recommended immunization schedule is the best protection against serious diseases. “I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician at CDC. “Getting children all the vaccines they need by age 2 is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy.”

Written By:


Immunization Outreach Coordinator in the Bureau of Infectious Disease

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