This is a guest post by Andrew Kroger MD, MPH, Medical Officer for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As a parent and a physician, I know how important it is for children to be vaccinated on time. In fact, vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children be vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule. This schedule is designed to offer protection early in life, when babies are vulnerable and before it is likely they will be exposed to diseases. Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors, including careful study of information about diseases and vaccines to decide which vaccines kids should get, and when they should get them for the best protection.
When children aren’t vaccinated or vaccination is delayed, they are left unprotected against diseases, including diseases that we thought were things of the past, like measles. In 2013, over 180 people were reported to have measles in the United States, with outbreaks across the country.
Although we have seen success in vaccination against measles in the U.S, it is still a common disease in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. Measles can be brought into the U.S. by unvaccinated U.S. residents and foreign visitors who get infected when they are in other countries. Measles spreads easily, and it can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. Young children are at highest risk for serious complications from measles.
Some parents may be concerned about the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years. Although it may seem like a lot, a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended. In addition, the recommended immunization schedule is flexible enough to reduce the number of shots given at a visit. For example, the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age.
Parents want what is best for their children, and one of the best ways to protect children is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations on time. If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.