This year National Infant Immunization Week is from April 21-28. This annual observance is designed to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Because of vaccines, some crippling and deadly diseases, like polio, have been all but eliminated here, but they are still very present in other countries. Other diseases that were once gone from the U. S. are now returning. The largest measles outbreak in 15 years has hit the United States. Most people who have recently become sick with the measles have not been vaccinated. They caught the measles in Europe (which is in the middle of a major epidemic), and brought the disease back to this country.
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a disease caused by bacteria that leads to coughing and choking that can last for several weeks. Babies who catch pertussis can get very sick, and some may die. The number of pertussis cases in this country has more than doubled since 2000. This may be because protection from the childhood vaccine fades over time. In the last few years, there have been several large pertussis outbreaks. Outbreaks are common in places like schools and hospitals. The disease spreads easily from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing. Most infants who get pertussis catch it from someone in their family, often a parent.
All new parents need the pertussis vaccine. Until your baby gets her first pertussis shot at 2 months, the best way to protect her is for you to get the adult vaccine before pregnancy or soon after you have your baby. The vaccine prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it along to your baby. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby, including grandparents, should get vaccinated, too.
To learn more about vaccines and to review the current recommended schedule for childhood vaccines, click on this link.