‘Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,’ – Paul Pettit, Public Health director for Genesee and Orleans counties
Press Release, Public Health Departments in Orleans and Genesee
National Infant Immunization Week ((April 27 to May 4) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this significant observance! Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of Genesee and Orleans counties, proclaims the many benefits and accomplishments vaccines have on our communities.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” he said. “When you get vaccinated, you not only protect yourself but you also help protect the people around you who might be too young or too sick to get vaccinated themselves. This is called ‘community immunity’ or ‘herd immunity.’ If enough people stop getting vaccinated, more outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, will occur.”
Most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines. Giving babies the recommended vaccinations by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. These diseases can be especially serious for infants and young children. Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s doctor to ensure that their baby is up-to-date on vaccinations. It is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they encounter potentially life-threatening diseases.
The recent outbreak of measles in our country has reached the highest number of cases since the disease was eliminated in 2000. Most recent data shows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 695 cases of measles from 22 states. The return of the disease occurs when an unvaccinated traveler visits a country where there is widespread measles transmission, gets infected with measles, and returns to the United States and exposes people in a community who are not vaccinated. Once measles enters an under-vaccinated community, it becomes difficult to control the spread of the disease. When measles enters a highly vaccinated community, outbreaks either don’t happen or are usually small. This is why taking proper precautions and receiving the vaccine is so important to the health of our community.
Below is a summary of the vaccines children should receive by 2 years of age:
- The Varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox. Symptoms of chickenpox include rash, tiredness, headache, and fever. Complications of the disease include infected blisters, bleeding disorders, encephalitis (brain swelling), and pneumonia (infection in the lungs). Children need 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine. CDC recommends children receive the first dose between 12–15 months and the second between 4–6 years.
- The DTaP vaccine combines protection against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Symptoms of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis include sore throat, mild fever, weakness, and swollen glands in neck. Complications of these diseases include swelling of the heart muscle, heart failure, coma, paralysis, death. Children need 5 doses of DTaP vaccine. CDC recommends infants receive the first dose at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months, the fourth between 15–18 months, and the fifth between 4–6 years.
- The Hib vaccine protects against Haemophilus influenzae disease. Symptoms of Haemophilus influenzae include fever and chills, headache, nausea, excessive tiredness, and altered mental status. Complications of these infections may include loss of limbs, brain damage, or hearing loss. Children need 3-4 doses of the Hib vaccine. CDC recommends infants receive the first dose at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months (if needed), and the last shot between 12–15 months.
- The Hepatitis A vaccine protects against the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Symptoms of HAV typically do not appear until 4 weeks after exposure or may not occur at all. Symptoms that may appear include fever, dark urine, abdominal pain, nausea, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). Complications of the disease include liver failure, arthralgia (joint pain), kidney, pancreatic, and blood disorders. Children need two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine. CDC recommends babies receive the first dose when the child turns 1 and the second should be given 6-12 months later.
- The Hepatitis B vaccine protects against a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Symptoms of HBV are fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice. Complications of HBV can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. Children need 3-4 doses of the HBV vaccine. CDC recommends infants receive the first dose at birth, the second dose is given at 1-2 months, the third at 4 months (if needed), and the last is given at 6-18 months.
- The Influenza (Flu) vaccine protects against flu virus. Symptoms of flu include fevers, chills, coughing, runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, and muscle or body aches. Complications of flu may include sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscles, organ failure, and even death. The influenza vaccine is started at 6 months and is needed every fall or winter for the rest of your life. CDC recommends children 6 months and older receive the vaccine once a year.
- The MMR vaccine combines protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. Symptoms of these diseases may include fever, headache, rashes, and eye irritation. Complications of measles, mumps, and rubella include deafness, brain damage, swelling of the spinal cord, infection of the lungs, and death. Children need 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. CDC recommends the first dose should be given between 12-15 months and the second dose between 4-6 years.
- The Polio vaccine protects against the infectious polio disease. Symptoms of the disease may include muscle and joint weakness and pain, sleep-related breathing disorders (such as sleep apnea), general fatigue (tiredness) and exhaustion with minimal activity, and muscle atrophy (muscle loss). Complications can include paresthesia (feelings of pins and needles in the legs), meningitis, paralysis, and death. Children need 4 doses of polio vaccine. CDC recommends the first dose should be given at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third between 6-18 months, and the fourth between 4-6 years.
- The Prevnar vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease. Symptoms include coughing, fevers and chills, difficulty breathing, and chest pains. Complications of this disease include brain damage, hearing loss, blood infection, and even death. Children need 4 doses of Prevnar. CDC recommends the first dose should be given at 2 months, the second at 4 months, the third at 6 months, and the fourth between 12-15 months.
- The Rotavirus vaccine protects against the contagious rotavirus. Symptoms of rotavirus include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Complications of the disease include severe diarrhea and dehydration which can lead to death. Children need 2-3 doses of rotavirus vaccine. CDC recommends the first dose is given at 2 months, the second is given at 4 months, and the third is given at 6 months (if needed).
Protecting your baby from vaccine-preventable diseases begins even before your baby is born. Brenden Bedard, Director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans Counties, educates on what vaccines mothers should get when they are pregnant.
“All pregnant women are recommended to receive the Tdap and influenza (flu) vaccine during each pregnancy,” he said. “The recommended time to get the Tdap shot is during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy and the influenza shot can be given at any time during flu season, typically October through May. Pregnant women who receive these vaccines are also helping to protect their babies from diseases for the first several months after their birth, when they are too young to get vaccinated.”
In addition to mothers, it is also important for immediate family, such as spouses, grandparents, and anyone who will be in close contact with a new baby to receive the Tdap vaccine and the influenza vaccine during flu season.
While babies may experience some discomfort immediately after receiving vaccinations, it’s important to remember the pain is temporary, while the protection is long term. You work hard to help keep your baby safe and healthy!
For more information on infant immunizations, click here.
The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments participate in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. This federally-funded program will assist families who are uninsured or underinsured receive childhood vaccines at no cost. For more information, please contact your local health department.
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