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Vaccinating on Time is Important for Disease Protection

It’s National Infant Immunization week, which serves to bring awareness to the importance of vaccinating infants.

Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. The same goes for childhood immunizations. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.

“The recommended immunization schedule is designed to protect babies early in life, when they are vulnerable and before it’s likely that they will be exposed to diseases,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Deputy Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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 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. Messonnier 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. Since 2010, we have seen between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of whooping cough each year in the United States. And, up to 20 babies die from whooping cough each year in the United States. Most whooping cough deaths are among babies who are too young to be protected by their own vaccination.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s NCIRD. This was the greatest 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.

Parents who are concerned about the number of shots given at one time can reduce the number given at a visit by using the flexibility built into the recommended immunization schedule. For example, the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age. Parents can work with their child’s healthcare professional to have their child get this dose at any time during that age range.

“I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time,” said Dr. Andrew Kroger, medical officer, NCIRD, and father of two. “Getting children all the vaccines they need by age two is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy.”

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

This document can be found on the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/