April 27-May 4 is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). This week each year we try to highlight the importance of vaccinating babies to protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases. A vaccine-preventable disease is one, like the measles, that can be prevented with a vaccination.
Have you ever known someone with mumps? What about pertussis (also called whooping cough)? Thankfully, many of us haven’t because vaccinations have been very effective in preventing these and many other diseases. But this doesn’t mean vaccine-preventable diseases no longer exist.
You may have heard about new cases of measles in the United States. Measles is a disease that’s easily spread and may cause rash, cough and fever. Measles can cause serious problems, such as pneumonia and brain swelling. Since the beginning of the year, 695 new cases of measles have been confirmed in this country. This is the highest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated here in 2000. This is really concerning and a reason to encourage everyone to get all their vaccinations.
How to protect your baby against measles
Vaccination is the best way to protect against measles. The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC), children need two doses of MMR vaccine. Babies can get the first dose between 12 to 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years old. Getting both doses of the MMR vaccine is important because it offers almost complete protection against measles: 97 percent!
The MMR vaccine is not only highly effective, it’s also safe. Although most parents choose to protect their children with vaccinations, some may have heard incorrect information about vaccine safety. This can create fear and may cause some parents to decide not to vaccinate their children. You can be sure that vaccines are safe. Currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Vaccines are used only after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors and health care professionals.
How to get help paying for vaccinations
If you need help to pay for vaccinations for your child, check out the Vaccines for Children (also called VFC) program. VFC offers free vaccinations to certain children through health care providers across the country. You can learn more about the VFC program here, or ask your child’s health care provider.
Visit marchofdimes.org to learn more about your baby’s vaccinations.