National Immunization Awareness Month: Babies and Pregnant Women
August is National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM14). The purpose of this observance is to
highlight the importance of immunizations, one of the top 10 public health accomplishments of the 20th Century, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. And we need to remind people that immunizations aren’t just
for children. They are needed throughout our lifetime.
Babies from Birth to Age 2
Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old. Every dose of vaccine is important to protect against infectious diseases like the flu, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) that can be life threatening for newborns and young babies. You can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule – giving your baby every vaccine she needs, when she needs it – and by making sure those who will be around your baby are vaccinated, too.
Pregnancy is a great time to plan for your baby’s immunizations – and to make sure you have the vaccines you need to protect yourself and pass protection from some diseases to your baby during the first few months of life. In addition to the vaccines recommended for adults, pregnant women need to have a flu shot every year, and the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy to protect against whooping cough.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is often thought of as a disease of the past. While we no longer see the number of cases we did before the vaccine was available, it is a growing health concern. The U.S. experienced a nearly 60-year record high number of cases in 2012, with more than 48,000 reported cases and 20 deaths.
Vaccines give parents the power to protect their babies from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2.
- Vaccinating your children according to the recommended schedule is one of the best ways you can protect them from 14 harmful and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.
- Children who don’t receive recommended vaccines are at risk of 1) getting the disease or illness, and 2) having a severe case of the disease or illness. You can’t predict or know in advance if an unvaccinated child will get a vaccine-preventable disease, nor can you predict or know how severe the illness will be or become.
- Vaccines don’t just protect your child. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.
- Most parents are vaccinating their children. Estimates from a CDC nationally representative childhood vaccine communications poll (April 2012 online poll) suggest that most people are vaccinating according to schedule. In fact, 88 percent of parents reported that they are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so.
- Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist.
- Many vaccine preventable diseases are only a plane ride away. For example, measles is not very common in the U.S. because most people are protected through vaccination, but it is still common in many parts of the world. The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while abroad. Once reaching this country, measles spreads quickly in unvaccinated populations. This year, the United States is experiencing a record number of reported measles cases. Many of these cases are associated with measles importations from other countries, including the Philippines, where an outbreak began in October 2013. Most of the reported measles cases occurred in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown
- Large outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in parts of the U.S. over the past few years. Reported cases of whooping cough vary from year to year and tend to peak every 3-5 years, but not every state peaks at the same time. This pattern is not completely understood, but that’s why it’s important that everyone get vaccinated. If it weren’t for vaccines, we’d see many more cases of whooping cough.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives.
Following the recommended schedule offers the best protection.
- Following the recommended schedule protects as many children as possible, before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
- Depending on the vaccine, more than one dose is needed to build high enough immunity to prevent disease, boost immunity that fades over time, help to make sure people who did not get immunity from a first dose are protected, or protect against germs that change over time, such as the flu.
- Every dose of a vaccine is important because they all protect against infectious diseases that are threats today. These diseases can be especially serious for infants and very young children.
- Children do not receive any known benefits from following schedules that delay vaccines. Delaying vaccines puts children at known risk of becoming ill with vaccine-preventable diseases.
Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them.
- Health care professionals are parents’ most trusted source of information about vaccines for their children. They play a critical role in supporting parents in understanding and choosing vaccines.
- Parents are encouraged to talk to their health care professionals about their vaccine-related questions and concerns.
- Parents who want more information about vaccines can learn more at CDC’s vaccine website for parents: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html
- Families who need help paying for childhood vaccines should ask their health care provider about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides vaccines at no cost to eligible children who do not otherwise have access to immunization.
Vaccines are very safe.
- Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe.
- Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. They not only protect vaccinated individuals but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
- Currently the U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. The country’s longstanding and effective vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible.
About Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
- Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious disease that can cause serious illness and death, especially in young infants who are not fully vaccinated.
- Whooping cough vaccines are the safest and most effective means we have to prevent this illness.
- Whooping cough vaccines are recommended for babies, children, adolescents and adults. It’s especially important for pregnant women.
- Infants and young children need their recommended five shots of DTaP (the childhood whooping cough vaccine) for maximum protection.
- Adolescent and adult booster vaccination with Tdap (the adolescent/adult whooping cough vaccine) is important for everybody, especially for pregnant women.
- Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during the third trimester of each pregnancy. When pregnant women receive a whooping cough vaccine, their body will create protective antibodies (proteins produced by the body to fight off diseases) and pass some of them to the baby before birth. These antibodies provide the baby some short-term protection against whooping cough in early life.
- Tdap is needed even if you were vaccinated with DTaP as a child.
- You can get Tdap no matter when you last got your tetanus shot (Td). There’s no need to wait.
Key Facts about Whooping Cough
Whooping Cough Resurgence
- Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is often thought of as a disease of the past. While we no longer see the number of cases we did in the U. S. before whooping cough vaccines were available, it is a growing health concern.
- The U. S. experienced a nearly 60-year record high number of cases in 2012, with more than 48,000 reported cases and 20 deaths.
Whooping Cough Is Deadly for Babies
Whooping cough can be serious for anyone, but it is life-threatening in newborns and young babies.
- Most of the deaths reported in 2012 were in babies younger than 3 months of age.
- About half of babies who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital.
- The younger the baby is when he gets whooping cough, the more likely he will need to be treated in a hospital.
Priority: Preventing Infant Deaths through Vaccination
There are currently no whooping cough vaccines licensed or recommended for newborns at birth. For this reason, three vaccination strategies are used in combination with each other to provide the best protection possible to newborns and young babies:
- Vaccinate pregnant women in their third trimester to give their newborns short-term immunity.
- Vaccinate family members and caregivers before they meet the baby.
- Vaccinate babies on time, beginning at 2 months of age, so they build their own immunity.
Every Pregnancy Vaccination Recommendation
CDC recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine called Tdap during each pregnancy. By doing so, the mother’s body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to her baby before birth. These antibodies give babies some short-term protection against whooping cough until they can begin building their own immunity through childhood vaccinations.
Antibody levels are highest about two weeks after getting the vaccine. The vaccine is recommended in the third trimester, preferably between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy, so the mother gives her baby the most protection (antibodies).
The amount of whooping cough antibodies a person has decreases over time. This is why women need a whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy so high levels of protective antibodies are transferred to each baby.
The term “cocooning” means vaccinating people who care for or come in close contact with babies. This is important because studies have shown that, when a source can be identified, four out of five babies who catch whooping cough get it from someone in their household. When a baby’s family members and caregivers get a whooping cough vaccine, they protect their own health and help form a protective circle of immunity around the baby. Cocooning alone might not be enough to prevent whooping cough illness and death in babies, but it provides some indirect protection.
Childhood Vaccine Recommendation
The whooping cough vaccine for children (2 months through 6 years) is called DTaP. Children need their whooping cough vaccine on time, as this is the best way to prevent whooping cough during childhood. DTaP vaccines should be given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age to build up high levels of protection. Booster shots are needed at 15 through 18 months and at 4 through 6 years to maintain that protection.
Vaccine Safety and Side Effects
Vaccines, including whooping cough vaccines, are held to the highest standards of safety. Experts have studied the whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults (Tdap), and they have concluded that it is very safe for pregnant women and their babies. Results from many clinical trials showed that DTaP vaccines are very safe for infants and children. CDC continually monitors whooping cough vaccine safety.
While whooping cough vaccines (Tdap and DTaP) are safe, side effects can occur. The most common side effects are mild (redness, swelling, tenderness) and serious side effects are extremely rare.
Getting whooping cough or a whooping cough vaccine (as a child or an adult) does not provide lifetime protection. In general, DTaP vaccination is effective for 89 out of 100 children who receive it, and Tdap vaccination protects 65 out of 100 adolescents who receive it. While protection from both whooping cough vaccines fades over time, people who are vaccinated and get whooping cough later are typically protected against severe illness.
Check the childhood immunization schedule for all recommended vaccines:
Missed a shot? Check CDC’s vaccine catch-up scheduler – for parents, caregivers and health care professionals:
Following are key points about the vaccines that are recommended for babies from birth through age 2.
- Hep B
- Hep A
Hep B vaccine protects against hepatitis B.
Doctors recommend children get 3-4 doses of the hepatitis B shot for best protection. Typically, children need one dose at each of the following ages: birth, 1 through 3 months, and 6 through 18 months.
- Hepatitis B is spread by contact with bodily fluids.
- Symptoms: There may be no symptoms, or there may be fever, stomach pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) and dark urine.
- Complications: liver failure, joint pain, kidney, pancreatic or blood disorders.
RV vaccine protects against rotavirus.
Doctors recommend children get 2 or 3 doses of the vaccine (depending on the brand of vaccine) for best protection. Babies should get the first dose at 2 months of age. For both vaccine brands, babies get a second dose at 4 months. If getting RotaTeq, babies need a third dose at 6 months.
- The virus is in the stool (feces) of people who are infected with the virus. It is spread by hands, diapers, or objects like toys, changing tables, or doorknobs that have a small amount of the stool on them. The disease commonly spreads in families, hospitals, and child care centers.
- Symptoms: diarrhea, fever and vomiting.
- Complications: diarrhea, dehydration.
DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria / tetanus / pertussis.
Doctors recommend children get 5 doses of the DTaP vaccine for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age.
- Diphtheria is spread through the air and direct contact with an infected person.
- Symptoms: sore throat, mild fever, weakness, sore glands in neck
- Complications: swelling of the heart muscle, heart failure, coma, paralysis, death.
- Tetanus is spread from exposure through cuts in the skin.
- Symptoms: stiffness in neck and abdominal muscles, difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms, fever.
- Complications: broken bones, breathing difficulty, death.
- Pertussis (whooping cough) is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who was whooping cough
- Symptoms: severe cough, runny nose, apnea (pause in breathing) in infants
- Complications: pneumonia (infection in the lungs), death
Hib vaccine protects against Haemophilis influenzae type b.
Doctors recommend children get 4 doses of the Hib vaccine for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months (for some brands), and 12 through 15 months.
- Haemophilis influenzae type b is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has Hib.
- Symptoms: There may be no symptoms unless bacteria enter the blood.
- Complications: meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord), intellectual disability, epiglottis (life-threatening infection that can block the windpipe and lead to serious breathing problems), pneumonia (infection in the lungs), death.
PCV13 vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease.
Doctors recommend children get 4 doses of the pneumococcal vaccine for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 through 15 months of age.
- Pneumococcal disease spreads through the air and direct contact with an infected person.
- Symptoms: There may be no symptoms, or there may be pneumonia (infection in the lungs).
- Complications: bacteremia (blood infection), meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord), death.
IPV vaccine protects against polio.
Doctors recommend children get 4 doses of the polio vaccine (also called IPV) for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years.
- Polio is spread through the air, by direct contact with a person who has polio, and through oral/nasal secretions.
- Symptoms: There may be no symptoms, or there may be sore throat, fever, nausea, headache.
- Complications: paralysis, death.
Flu vaccine protects against influenza.
Doctors recommend children get the flu vaccine every year starting when they are 6 months old. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age may need 2 doses for best protection.
- Influenza is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has influenza.
- Symptoms: fever, muscle pain, sore throat, cough, extreme fatigue.
- Complications: pneumonia (infection in the lungs).
MMR vaccine protects against measles / mumps / rubella.
Doctors recommend that children get 2 doses of the MMR shot for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 12 through 15 months and 4 through 6 years. Infants 6 months to 11 months old need 1 dose of MMR vaccine before traveling abroad.
- Measles is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has measles.
- Symptoms: rash, fever, cough, runny nose, pinkeye.
- Complications: encephalitis (brain swelling) pneumonia (infection in the lungs), death
- Mumps is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has mumps.
- Symptoms: swollen salivary glands (under the jaw), fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pain.
- Complications: meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (brain swelling), pneumonia (infection in the lungs), inflammation of testicles or ovaries, deafness.
- Rubella is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has rubella.
- Symptoms: Children infected with rubella virus sometimes have a rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes.
- Complications: very serious in pregnant women – can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, birth defects.
Varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox.
Doctors recommend children get 2 doses of the chickenpox shot for best protection. Children need one dose at each of the following ages: 12 through 15 months and 4 through 6 years.
- Chickenpox is spread through the air and direct contact with a person who has chickenpox.
- Symptoms: rash, tiredness, headache, fever.
- Complications: infected blisters, bleeding disorders, encephalitis (brain swelling), pneumonia (infection in the lungs).
Hepatitis A vaccine protects against hepatitis A.
Doctors recommend children get 2 doses of the hepatitis A shot for best protection. Children need the first dose at 12 through 23 months and the second dose 6 to 18 months after the first.
- Hepatitis A is spread through direct contact with a person who has hepatitis A and contaminated food or water.
- Symptoms: There may be no symptoms, or there may be fever, stomach pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes), dark urine.
- Complications: liver failure, joint pain, kidney, pancreatic and blood disorders.
- All vaccines used in the U. S. require extensive safety testing before they are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- FDA and CDC work with doctors and other health care professionals throughout the U.S. to monitor the safety of vaccines.
- Several systems are used to monitor the safety of vaccines after they are licensed and being used in the U.S.
- These systems can monitor side effects already known to be caused by vaccines, as well as detect rare side effects that were not identified during a vaccine’s clinical trials.
- One of the systems used to monitor the safety of vaccines after they are licensed and used in the U.S. is called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
- VAERS accepts reports of adverse events (any possible side effects) that occur after vaccination. These reports come from health professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the general public (vaccine recipients or their parents/guardians).
Sample News Release
Immunization gives parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious and sometimes deadly diseases before they turn 2 years old.
To celebrate the importance of immunizations for a healthy start and throughout our lives – and to make sure children are protected with all the vaccines they need – the [name of local organization] is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. The week of August 3 – August 9 will focus specifically on babies from birth through age 2.
“Children who don’t receive recommended vaccines are at risk of getting the disease or illness, and of having a severe case,” said [insert name of local official]. “Every dose of every vaccine is important to protect your child and others in the community from infectious diseases. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your child is up to date on all the vaccines he or she needs.”
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox.
There are many important reasons to make sure your child is vaccinated:
- Immunizations can protect your child from 14 serious diseases.
- Vaccination is very safe and effective.
- Immunizations can protect others you care about.
- Immunization can save your family time and money.
- Immunization protects future generations.
When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their family and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.
Parents can find out more about the recommended immunization schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html or www.wshc.org or call Whittier’s main line at 617-427-1000.